Logo of the Russian mercenary Wagner in a picture taken on November 4, 2022 in St. Petersburg.
Moscow – Today, in the last, third reading, the Lower Chamber of the Russian Parliament adopted an amendment to the law on discrediting and spreading lies about the Russian army, which will also apply to volunteer units. According to Reuters, the amendment is seen as a step towards protecting mercenaries from the private Russian Wagner Group who are leading the Russian military campaign for eastern Ukraine's Bakhmut.
The bill must now be approved by the upper house of parliament and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The original norm on the discrediting of the Russian army was approved by the Russian parliament shortly after the Russian army invaded Ukraine last February. The law is aimed at anyone who publicly rejects Moscow's official interpretation of events in the neighboring country. While “discrediting” the army is punishable by up to five years in prison, spreading “false information” can be punished by the Russian authorities with up to fifteen years in prison.
The amendment applies to “volunteer units, organizations and natural persons that provide assistance to the armed forces in the performance of their tasks,” the State Duma said on its website. According to the chairman of the lower house Vyacheslav Volodin, the law will protect from provocations and lies “all those who risk their lives to ensure the safety of the country and citizens”. with the changes, he made it impossible for the media to report negatively about his men. The group, which operates with a relatively high degree of autonomy on the battlefield, has relatively strained relations with the Russian General Staff and the Ministry of Defense. Prigozhin previously criticized the army for military failures.
For allegedly discrediting the Russian army and for spreading lies about the soldiers, thousands of people have been detained in Russia since the beginning of the war, ordinary citizens as well as renowned opponents of the Kremlin regime, including oppositionists Alexei Gorinov and Ilya Yashin . Opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, whose trial began on Monday on charges of treason, is also awaiting trial.