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Number of criminal cases on ‘fake news’ about Russian army reaches 100

Starting from 4 March, 100 criminal cases on “fake news” about the Russian army have been opened in Russia, head of the Agora human rights group Pavel Chikov shared in a post on his Telegram channel.

He added that during last week there were reports about seven new criminal cases. They were opened against “an unknown man in Irkutsk, Robert Pogosyan in Petrozavodsk, Ilya Ponomarev in Moscow, Andrey Balin in Tolyatti, and Pavel Drozdov in Vorkuta”. Furthermore, Ilya Karpenko in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Valery Kotovich in Rostov-on-Don became persons of interest in similar criminal cases.

“The last two cases are being considered by garrison military courts. Valery Kotovich has been taken into custody. These are the first Russian soldiers to have become a person of interest in criminal cases under this article of the Criminal Code,” Chikov noted.

According to his estimates, 57 people have been charged in accordance with the second part of the article, “which is deemed as highly serious and presupposes from five to ten years of imprisonment”. At the same time, 24 suspects are being charged in accordance with the first part of the article — “up to three years of penal colony”.

An Omsk deputy Dmitry Petrenko is accused of having spread “fake news” about the military seven times. He was put on a wanted list and later arrested in absentia.

Furthermore, 32 persons of interest are not currently in Russia, wrote Chikov. “There are 28 people that have been detained, six people that have been prohibited from committing certain actions by the courts, and three people put under house arrest,” the human rights defender added.

The courts have already imposed nine sentences under the article on “fake news” about the Russian army. A Moscow court sentenced a municipal deputy Alexey Gorinov to seven years of general regime colony; in Tumen, Eduard Scherbakov was sentenced to six months of penal settlement.

“Two people were sentenced to community service, another two got fines of 1 million rubles (€16,000) and 3 million rubles (€48,000), while two more people were sentenced to suspended imprisonment (including the teacher from Penza Irina Gen),” emphasised Chikov.

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On 4 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on criminal responsibility for spreading “fake news about the Russian military”.

Article 207.3 “On public dissemination of knowingly false information about the use of the Russian Armed Forces in order to protect the interests of Russia and its citizens” was introduced into the Criminal Code. Spreading “fake news” can lead to 10 years of imprisonment; in the case of “serious consequences” of the dissemination — up to 15 years.

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