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4th March 2024, 16:32:09 UTC

A week into its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia introduced war censorship laws to make protest against the invasion a grave offence. Two years on, a huge number of people are serving lengthy prison sentences for peaceful anti-war dissent. Russia must repeal these unfair laws and immediately release all those imprisoned for raising their voices against the war of aggression.

War censorship laws criminalize spreading of “fakes” and “discreditation” of the Russian armed forces (Articles 207.3 and 280.3 of the Criminal Code), carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment. While space for peaceful protest and free expression was barely existent before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, these laws aim to stop anti-war voices in Russia from being heard altogether.

This is what war censorship looks like: Alexandra Skochilenko, an artist, received a seven-year sentence for swapping supermarket price tags for anti-war messages. Opposition municipal deputy, Aleksei Gorinov, denounced what the Kremlin called a “special military operation in Ukraine” as a “war” and was sentenced to seven years. A journalist, and mother of two, Maria Ponomarenko, is serving her six-year sentence for a Telegram post about the bombing of a theatre in Mariupol. A significant number of people across Russia have been imprisoned for peaceful anti-war protest.

Despite the severe punishments, people in Russia continue to protest against the war in Ukraine. However, the Russian authorities are determined to shut down dissent completely. In 2023, number and length of sentences for anti-war posts on social media increased. In 2024, the parliament voted to allow confiscation of property of people charged under war censorship laws.

Russia’s war censorship laws violate human rights. We must act in solidarity with people in Russia who dare to protest its war against Ukraine.

Demand the Russian authorities repeal the war censorship laws and immediately and unconditionally release all those imprisoned solely for peacefully protesting the war.

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