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Ukraine considers jailing anyone who denies or justifies Russian aggression

The Ukrainian parliament is considering legislation that would criminalize “publicly denying or justifying Russian military aggression this year and last year against Ukraine.” The penalties for breaking the law would range from a fine to as many as three years in prison. Officials caught violating the law, as well as repeat offenders, could face as many as five years behind bars.

The bill’s explanatory note says cases of publicly denying or justifying Russian military aggression may include elements of Russian propaganda or “the demonstration of an individual’s personal position.”

“Such acts,” the bill argues, “have nothing to do with the freedom of speech, insofar as they’re directed against the legally established principles of Ukraine’s current social system, according to which Russia is an aggressor.” Moreover, the explanatory note continues, public denials or justifications of Russian aggression “jeopardize key principles of the world order.”

The bill was introduced by Rada member Igor Artyushenko, who belongs to President Poroshenko’s parliamentary faction.

In late January 2015, the Ukrainian Rada adopted a statement declaring Russia to be an aggressor-nation, and called on other countries, as well as international organizations, to follow suit. In that announcement, Ukrainian MPs also labeled the breakaway republics in Donetsk and Lugansk “terrorist organizations.”

In December 2014, Russian Duma deputies drafted similar legislation about “aggressor-nations,” targeting countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia.

Russia denies deploying any troops to eastern Ukraine, but it does acknowledge that Russian volunteers are active in the area. 

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