President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed the law on Saturday, imposing long prison terms for “discrediting” and spreading “fake” information about any forces, including the infamous Wagner mercenary unit fighting on the side of Russia in Ukraine.

Almost all anti-war voices were silenced after Russia banned “discrediting” and the spread of “deliberately false” information about the Russian armed forces shortly after the country invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The new legislation, which was lobbied by the founder of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, makes it a crime to publicly criticize or spread so-called “false information” about volunteer formations, as well as private mercenary units.

For “public actions” aimed at “discrediting… volunteer formations, organizations or individuals” that help the Russian military, violators face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 300,000 rubles (almost 4,000 dollars), if these actions were made during the year. from the first offense.

In cases where such “public actions” are found to have resulted in serious consequences — including accidental death or bodily harm — the punishment will be increased to seven years in prison or a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($13,300).

Spreading, according to the authorities, “false information” about military volunteers will be punishable by imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to 1.5 million rubles ($20,000).

“Army forgeries” that entailed “severe consequences” under the new legislation threaten the offender with imprisonment for up to 15 years.

“He who risks his life today to ensure the safety of the country and its citizens is protected from lies and provocations,” State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said of the bill shortly after the vote in the lower house of the Russian parliament on Tuesday.

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