Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Moscow on February 24.
Russia has started putting into use a recently adopted law that calls for sentences of up to 15 years in prison for people who distribute "deliberately false information" about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The Investigative Committee said in a statement on March 16 that a probe was launched against blogger Veronika Belotserkovskaya, whose posts on Instagram "contained false information about the alleged use of the Russian armed forces for destruction of cities and civilian population in Ukraine."
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Belotserkovskaya, who is based in France, reacted to the Investigative Committee's announcement in an Instagram post , saying: "I was officially recognized as a decent person!"
The Investigative Committee said Belotserkovskaya was added to the wanted list, adding that two similar cases on the same charge had been launched against two persons in the Siberian region of Tomsk.
The statement says unspecified pretrial restrictions had been imposed on the two suspects whose identities were not disclosed in the city of Tomsk and the nearby town of Seversk after their homes were searched.
The law, signed into force by President Vladimir Putin on March 5, added to the current Russian clampdown on independent domestic and international media outlets covering Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Many domestic and international media outlets have already suspended or shut down their operations in Russia.
International broadcasters who have announced suspensions include RFE/RL, the BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, CBS, and Germany's ARD and ZDF. Multiple websites of RFE/RL, the BBC, and other outlets have also been blocked over what Russian regulators claim is erroneous reporting.
Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor has ordered media across the country to only publish information provided by official sources. It also forbids describing the unprovoked actions as an invasion or a war, instead insisting they are called "special military operations."
The law envisages sentences of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of the offense. The penalty for the distribution of fake news about the Russian Army that leads to "serious consequences" is 15 years in prison.
It also makes it illegal "to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia" or "for discrediting such use," with a penalty possible of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.