Russia steps up domestic crackdown on Putin opponents

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President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in a speech.
President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in a speech.🇧🇷 Photo: EFE/EPA/MEKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN

A new law on “foreign agents” in Russia took effect on Thursday (1), resulting in an intensified crackdown on freedom of expression and opposition to President Vladimir Putin.

The 2012 law on Foreign Agents, passed after a wave of public protests against Putin’s return to the presidency, required organizations engaged in political activity and receiving funding from abroad to register as foreign agents.

Last week, that definition was expanded to include not only individuals or organizations that receive funding from abroad, but also those who “have received support and (or) are under foreign influence”.

“Support” from foreign sources is defined not only as financial, but also as “organizational and methodological, or scientific and technical help”.

State control has increased in Russia since the invasion of the neighboring country. A few days after the first attacks, the government restricted access to Facebook, some Western news sites and independent media in the country. Peaceful protests were quickly ended and thousands were arrested.

In early March, the government adopted a law criminalizing the dissemination of what it called “deliberately false” information about the Russian armed forces. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.

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