Russia’s Putin signs law to seize assets of those who discredit military

Latest attempt to crush dissent comes into effect ahead of presidential elections in March.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs the Security Council meeting via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo State residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs the Security Council meeting via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, on February 13, 2024 [Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law allowing authorities to confiscate the assets of people convicted of spreading “deliberately false information” about the military.

The law, which was signed on Wednesday, targets individuals convicted of a range of offences which include “discrediting” the government and spreading “deliberately false information” about the army, threatening them with the loss of money, property, assets and valuables.

It would also apply to those convicted of publicly inciting “extremist activities” and calling for actions harmful to state security.

The measure was quickly approved by the lower and upper houses of parliament.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the law, which could potentially target exiled critics with property at home, had “absolutely” nothing to do with Soviet-style confiscations and said fears it could be misused in practice were “groundless”.

Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin had previously said it targets “scoundrels and traitors, those who today spit on the backs of our soldiers, who have betrayed their homeland”.

An existing law against “discrediting” the military was adopted as part of a sweeping government crackdown on dissent after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

It covers offences such as “justifying terrorism” and spreading “fake news” about the military, and has been used extensively to silence Putin’s critics.

Thousands of activists, bloggers and other Russians have received long jail terms, or been detained or fined for speaking out against the war amid an escalating crackdown on free speech and opposition to Putin.

The new law goes into effect just ahead of the second anniversary of the Ukraine offensive and presidential elections in March that Putin is almost certain to win.

Putin has not allowed real electoral opposition during his 24-year leadership of Russia, with rivals such as opposition leader Alexey Navalny behind bars.

Presidential hopeful Boris Nadezhdin, a prominent critic of the war in Ukraine, has seen his bid to run blocked. He has announced he will challenge the decision of the election commission in the Supreme Court.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies