While the Kremlin is busy fighting a physical war in Ukraine, back home it is also continuing its war against the internet and so-called “foreign influences”. Some of the laws which were authorised by the Russian President were directly in connection to situations brought up by the war in Ukraine.
One law was introduced to directly combat the issue of further or future sanctions being imposed on Russia and Russian Oligarchs by passing a Bill to classify Russia’s foreign currency reserves.
The Bill now makes the size and worth of Russia’s gold and foreign currency reserves a state secret to make it more challenging to enforce sanctions.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine in February, the West has implemented enough sanctions to freeze approximately £250billion of Russia’s foreign reserves.
Some of the laws were also used to crackdown on “foreign influence” and therefore on desertion of the Kremlin and Russia.
The ‘Foreign Agents’ law means authorities in Russia can label those they consider under “foreign influence” as a “foreign agent” even in the absence of any evidence of foreign funding.
It is rather vague as to what “foreign influence” means but those who are considered ‘foreign agents’ cannot teach at state and municipal schools, receive government funding for creative projects or sell services and goods to the state.
Equally the law has now ruled that those who defect from Russia in an armed conflict will be seen as treasonous which carries a punishment of 12-20 years in a prison colony.
In an effort to prevent such defection and desertion of Russian and the Kremlin’s regime, Putin also passed a new law allowing the Attorney General to ban foreign news media outlets following “hostile” action against Russian media abroad.
The Attorney General can also cancel media licences for broadcasting “publicly significant information” which is seen as illegal or dangerous, or information “expressing clear disrespect for the state”.
Journalists can be held personally liable for circulating information which “discredits the use of the Russian army” or calls for protests.
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People on social media were shocked at the new laws authorised by Putin with user @samokish_ivan tweeting: “The more desperate he becomes the more laws he’ll keep signing off.”
One of the more concerning laws is the creation of a new nationwide youth group of Putin’s ‘new Pioneers’ which is eerily reminiscent of the Hitler Youth.
The movement creating this group will be called ‘The Great Change’ and will be entirely under the control of the President and membership is theoretically voluntary.
The group is open to children from the age of six until they finish school or technical school, or college and in the draft bill it is for “the comprehensive spiritual, moral, intellectual, and physical development of children” and to educate them on “patriotism, civics, and respect for their elders”.
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A source near the State Duma’s leadership told Meduza, a banned publication in Russia, that the movement and youth group would offset the “pernicious influence of the Internet” and teach children how to be a “team”.
Another source close to the Kremlin said that members of the movement would be shielded from “foreign influences” and “brought up as patriots”.
The bill forbids the group from working with “undesirable” groups and “foreign agents” and those associated with such agents are banned from the movement as leaders.
The passing of such laws goes hand in hand with Putin’s recent forcible integration of occupied regions of Ukraine with Russia by implementing the Rouble and the Russian language in schools in an attempt to spread Russian propaganda and control.