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Police outside Kemerovo decide that insulting Putin online is okay, if you don't call him ‘president’

Source: Meduza

Police in Osinniki, a town outside Kemerovo, have dropped all charges against an Odnoklassniki user who was under investigation for allegedly insulting Vladimir Putin. According to an official document shared on Telegram by human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov, the case against Ilya Putevsky was abandoned because Putevsky never used the words “president” or “Russian Federation,” meaning that officials can’t be sure his October 7 blog post was in fact addressed to President Putin.

Here’s what Putevsky wrote on October 7, Vladimir Putin’s 67th birthday: “DEAR SKAZOCHNIK V.V. PUTIN, TODAY’S YOUR SPECIAL DAY! I HOPE ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES TELL YOU TO SHOVE IT, AND I HOPE YOU END UP IN PRISON IN SOLITARY FOR LIFE!!! AND A BAG OF SHIT IS MY V.V. PUTIN GIFT!!!”

The misdemeanor offense at issue here is new. In mid-March 2019, President Putin signed legislation amending Russian Administrative Code Article 20.1, Section 3, banning any information shared online that is expressed in an “indecent form” and offends the “human dignity” and “public morality,” while demonstrating “obvious disrespect for society, the state, or Russia's official state symbols, Constitution, or state agencies.” Fines range from 30,000 to 100,000 rubles ($470 to $1,570).

Earlier this month, the human rights group Agora compiled a report on the first 180 days of the new law’s enforcement. (Meduza summarized the results here.) In that time, 45 cases on “insulting the government” have been opened, and the sum of the fines judges have assigned in those cases has reached 845,000 rubles ($13,009, though only $10,395 in fines have already taken effect). In more than half of all the cases reported (58 percent), the “insulting” speech in question was aimed at President Vladimir Putin.