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Putin orders criminalization of online ‘drug propaganda’ in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the country’s federal executive branch to develop new legislation that would criminalize “encouraging the use of or propagandizing narcotic substances, psychotropic substances, or their analogues using the information and telecommunication network known as the Internet.” Encouraging illegal drug use in Russia is currently an administrative violation punishable by a small fine, and there has not previously been a specific punishment for committing that violation online.

Putin also ordered Russia’s Internal Affairs Ministry, which acts as its federal police force, to develop plans for hiring new staff members who would track drug-related crimes online. Finally, the order encouraged government funding for organizations that prevent drug use or provide rehabilitation services.

The new executive measures followed a meeting during which Alexey Sviridov, a member of the Strong Russia movement, warned Putin about the dangers of “narco-advertising,” which he described as a set of “domains, electronic addresses, where teenagers or other residents can just go and acquire [drugs],” adding, “you can even pay in Bitcoin there, that is, through text messages and online chats.” Sviridov also told the president about a movement called Sober Russia and its efforts to combat drug use.