Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on a change in the law punishing “defamation” or “discrediting” volunteers in the military. Those convicted risk up to 15 years in prison.
Russians found guilty of discrediting the army – not only soldiers but also volunteers going to fight in Ukraine – will face severe punishments. The law was published on the Russian government’s official web portal on Saturday.
The tightening of the law comes at the request of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian private paramilitary group Wagner. Prigozhin believes politicians should protect mercenaries, who are officially considered volunteers, from defamation. Prigozhin also recruited convicts for the war in Ukraine.
In recent months, the Russian government has massively curtailed freedom of speech. For example, several opponents of the war have already been sentenced to prison for allegedly discrediting the Russian military or spreading false news.
The news comes a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Putin on charges of abducting children from occupied areas of Ukraine.