Russian regulator warns local media over coverage of Ukraine war
Journalists labelled as ‘foreign agents’, outlets told they will be blocked unless they remove ‘unreliable information’.
Russia’s communications regulator has ordered media outlets in the country to remove reports describing the continuing attack on Ukraine as an “assault, invasion, or declaration of war” – or face being blocked and fined.
In a statement on Saturday, Roskomnadzor accused several independent media outlets of spreading “unreliable socially significant untrue information” about the shelling of Ukrainian cities by the Russian army and civilian deaths.
Among those sent warning letters were Echo Moskvy, a popular radio station, and Novaya Gazeta, the country’s top independent newspaper whose editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize last year.
Citing a request from the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the regulator said media outlets, including independent television channel Dozhd, will be blocked unless they remove the “unreliable information”.
“Roskomnadzor also launched an administrative investigation into the dissemination of unreliable publicly significant information by the above-mentioned media,” the watchdog said, adding that the offence is punishable by a fine of up to five million rubles ($60,000).
Roskomnadzor also said that “reliable information” could be found in “official Russian information outlets”.
Russia launched its full-scale invasion in the early hours of Thursday, calling it a “special military operation” aimed at defending Russia-backed separatists in the east and demilitarising and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine. Russian troops on Saturday pressed towards Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, after a night of explosions and street fighting that sent residents seeking shelter underground.
At least 2490 people have been arrested in Russia at anti-war protests since Thursday morning. At least 1866 — on 24th of February, 576 — on 25th, as for today we have information about at least 48 people arrested. pic.twitter.com/b5fHBaAWMC
— ОВД-Инфо (@OvdInfo) February 26, 2022
In Russia, protests against the war resumed in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other cities on Friday, even though they appeared smaller than those on Thursday, when thousands of people took to the streets across the country.
The OVD-Info rights group reported that 1,820 demonstrators were detained in 58 Russian cities on Thursday night, including 1,002 in Moscow. It said on Saturday at least 2,490 people were arrested.
Separately, Russian chess legend Garry Kasparov on Friday strongly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling President Vladimir Putin a “dictator” and urging global leaders to “follow the money” to stop him.
Russian doctors demanded Putin stopped the war in Ukraine. 'We strongly oppose the military actions carried out by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine. The war will take multiple lives, cripple so many destinies we won’t be able to help however hard we tryhttps://t.co/ENafutvg5X
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) February 26, 2022
Meanwhile, Elena Chernenko, a reporter with the Kommersant daily, said she was kicked out of the foreign ministry pool over an open letter condemning the attack on Ukraine that has been signed by nearly 300 reporters. Chernenko said on the messaging app, Telegram, that the ministry cited her “lack of professionalism”, and she urged officials not to retaliate against journalists who signed the letter.
“Apparently, such are the times,” Chernenko wrote of the ban.
Another journalist facing trouble was Yury Dud. Like many others on Thursday, Dud, a vocal Kremlin critic who runs one of the most popular YouTube blogs in Russia, wrote an elaborate social media post decrying the invasion of Ukraine.
On Friday, an influential Kremlin-backed internet watchdog group, the Safe Internet League, filed a request with the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the Justice Ministry to consider labelling Dud a “foreign agent” – a crippling designation that implies additional government scrutiny and strong pejorative connotations that would discredit him.
Popular state TV station, Channel One, announced it was replacing entertainment shows on its schedule with news and political shows “because of the current situation”. Among those scrapped was a late-night show hosted by a popular comedian, Ivan Urgant, who spoke out against the invasion on Instagram.
The channel’s spokespeople insisted the decision to remove Urgant’s show from the schedule had nothing to do with his Instagram post.