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Some Russians fight back when Putin bursts into freedoms

But with domestic problems now running the agenda for the Kremlin, Putin's Russia seems to be taking a more authoritative turn. This week, Russian lawmakers developed a package of new legislation aimed at limiting internet freedom. Among the laws awaiting the President's possible signature is a measure that would allow the authorities to imprison individuals to offend government officials on the net. Russia is not China, and the country still has a relatively encouraging online culture. But the proposed laws would extend the definition of limited speech and require sanctions of up to 15 days in administrative detention for those found guilty of sending information showing "respect for society, state, (and) state symbols of the Russian Federation," &#821 1; including presumably Putin himself. The latest flight to limit internet freedom in Russia is based on fair laws that are already on the books. In 2016, a series of anti-terrorist acts were introduced, which collectively felt like the Yarovaya law, with severe penalties for supporting extremism online. According to Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups, dozens of Russians have been imprisoned to simply express their views on blogs and social media. And Putin this week signed a bill limiting the digital footprint of military service personnel. Russian authorities may have broad latitude for limiting speech online, but it is also worth remembering that the Yarovaya Law had a major impact on religious freedom in Russia. A report from the State Department from 2018 noted that the Russian authorities "prosecuted persons…

But with domestic problems now running the agenda for the Kremlin, Putin’s Russia seems to be taking a more authoritative turn.

This week, Russian lawmakers developed a package of new legislation aimed at limiting internet freedom. Among the laws awaiting the President’s possible signature is a measure that would allow the authorities to imprison individuals to offend government officials on the net.

Russia is not China, and the country still has a relatively encouraging online culture. But the proposed laws would extend the definition of limited speech and require sanctions of up to 15 days in administrative detention for those found guilty of sending information showing “respect for society, state, (and) state symbols of the Russian Federation,” &#821

1; including presumably Putin himself.

The latest flight to limit internet freedom in Russia is based on fair laws that are already on the books. In 2016, a series of anti-terrorist acts were introduced, which collectively felt like the Yarovaya law, with severe penalties for supporting extremism online.

According to Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups, dozens of Russians have been imprisoned to simply express their views on blogs and social media. And Putin this week signed a bill limiting the digital footprint of military service personnel.

Russian authorities may have broad latitude for limiting speech online, but it is also worth remembering that the Yarovaya Law had a major impact on religious freedom in Russia.

A report from the State Department from 2018 noted that the Russian authorities “prosecuted persons with many denominations for unauthorized missionary activities according to the changes to the anti-terrorism laws passed by 2016, known as the Yarovaya package. Police carried out raids on private homes and places religious minorities. [19659004] Religious minorities said the local authorities used the country’s anti-emission laws to add to the list of banned religious texts. Local officials continued to prevent minority religious organizations from obtaining land and denying them building permits for worship houses.

These practices continue, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have been some of the hardest hit by the enforcement of such laws. In one of the most profiled cases, a Russian court in last month sentenced Danish Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen to six years in a penal colony due to “religious extremism”.

After conviction Christensen also made allegations of torture and nausea treatment by Jehovah’s Witnesses after their residency had been sought by law enforcement officials in the Siberian city of Surgut.

And earlier this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US State Department confirmed the imprisonment of two US citizens – members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – in the southern city of Novorossiysk.

Putin’s Russia may be authoritarian, but it is not monolithic: The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses continued even after Putin in December described that Jehovah’s Witnesses were included on a list of extremist organizations as “complete nonsense”.

But moving to restrict internet freedom and the breakdown of religious minorities reflects broader official paranoia on internal threats. Russia’s highest leadership has a conspiratorial view of the world, with Russia opposed by foreign opponents from and without fifth columnists from within.

 Putin talks about pocketbook problems, but still brandishes missiles

In a speech this weekend, Russia’s highest military officer pointed out , Valery Gerasimov, on the “aggressive vector” of foreign policy in the United States and its allies, suggesting that they engaged the “color transformation” and “soft power” technology to promote regime change around the world, including in Russia.

“Their goal is to eliminate the state of unwanted countries, the subversion of sovereignty, the change of legally elected bodies of state power,” Gerasimov said. “Thus it was in Iraq, Libya and Ukraine. Currently similar actions are observed in Venezuela.”

Such a speech reflects wider concern over internal deviations, especially in a country where political opposition does not have access to state airwaves and Putin has a monopoly on power.

But there are signs that some Russians resist the country’s continued sliding towards authoritarianism. Earlier this week, two activists were jailed shortly after having interrupted a ceremony to celebrate the 66th anniversary of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s death on the Red Square.

A protest, Yevgeny Suchkov, threw broken carnations into a brazil of Stalin and shouted, “Burn in hell, the executioner of the people, murderers of women and children!”

Video of Suchkov and another protest, Olga Savchenko, went viral. The two were imprisoned but quickly released after being fined $ 8, according to US funded news outlet Current Time.

And some Russians are not ready to passively accept internet censorship. According to news agency Interfax, the authorities in Moscow have granted an application from activists for a rally against Internet censorship this Sunday. Russia’s challenged civil society does not seem to be fully ready to give up.


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