March 28, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9858

Russian Liberal Opposition Leader Vishnevsky: Putin's New Laws Against Fake News Are Aimed At Imposing Doctrine Of Government Infallibility

March 28, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9858

On March 26, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting the dissemination of fake news or public discreditation of Russian state agencies operating abroad. Those guilty of such offenses can be fined 5 million rubles and face a sentence of 15 years imprisonment. [1]

This law expands the similar prohibition on defaming the Russian armed forces such as by charging them with deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in the Ukraine operation. Russia has even extended the scope of this law to cover Ukrainian nationals, who level such charges such as the noted Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon. Russia's Investigative Committee is preparing a case against Gordon for having spread "under the guise of reliable reports, deliberately false information about the bombing and shelling of civilian infrastructure and civilians by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation." The Committee " is carrying out all the necessary investigative actions and examinations to assess the statements of the person involved in the criminal case. Measures will be taken to put him on the wanted list."[2]

It took less than a week from the time that the law was first tabled till it was signed into law by Putin. When it was first tabled, Boris Vishnevsky a leader of the opposition Yabloko party and a member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, claimed that the prohibition would not end with agencies operating abroad but would ban any criticism of government. The end result would be a doctrine of government infallibility and the restoration of Soviet style unanimity.

Vishnevsky's article follows below: [3]

Boris Vishnevsky (Source:

"The State Duma is about to pass a new prohibitive initiative, whose swift adoption is beyond any doubt.

"First, criminal and administrative liability was introduced for spreading "fakes" about the Russian army's actions and for "discrediting" its utilization aimed at "protecting the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens, and maintain international peace and security.

"This reduced to a trickle the number of media reports on the course of "special operation" that diverge from the official Ministry of Defense data.

"The experience was deemed positive, and now United Russia party members Alexander Khinstein, Andrei Turchak, Andrei Klishas, and Vasily Piskarev are attempting to do the same trick with information about the work of any government bodies acting for the aforementioned purposes abroad.

"Thus, Khinstein has announced the quick adoption of the law, claiming that it will apply to Russian embassies, trade missions and other diplomatic departments, as well as the Federal Guard Service, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Rossotrudnichestvo [The Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation] and other bodies. It's argued that 'everyone, who protects the interests of Russia beyond its borders, whether they wear shoulder boards or not [meaning whether these officials serve in civil or in military or semi-military bodies], must be reliably protected from any provocation, lies, 'besmirching,' and 'public discredit.'

Alexander Khinstein (Source:

"The Duma Committee on Legislation and State-building already supported the initiative; the rest is a technical issue. Let's recall that the laws introducing liability for 'fakes' about the army and for its 'discreditation' were passed and signed by the president in one day. They know how to do it when they want to.

"The proposal's meaning, naturally, is extremely simple: to ban altogether or to minimize any independent or critical judgments about these Russian 'state bodies' operating abroad.

"Only the official information about such bodies' activities will be considered reliable, and any other information will be regarded as intentional purveying of false, 'fake' or 'discrediting,' and could fall under administrative or even criminal liability.

"Theoretically speaking, the facts of inaccurate information or "discreditation" should be established by a court. But given the already established praxis in cases involving military actions or assessments on the "special operation," it is too much to hope that things would be different with respect to "state agencies."

"Practically this is already the case with detainees at public rallies, as any evidence confirming their innocence is assessed [by the court] 'critically' or as (to quote actual court decisions) 'an attempt to avoid the punishment they deserve,' in turn testimony or arguments provided by the police officers are assessed [by the court], as undoubtedly true and beyond question.

"Furthermore, the State Duma will almost certainly try (if not right now, then soon) to extend this principle to cover the activities of any government agencies, irrespective of whether they work abroad or in Russia.

"[In order] to introduce a kind of 'dogma of state infallibility ';

"Establish that 'one must not dare to have his own judgment,' so that only what state agencies report about themselves, or what the state-owned or pro-government media wrote about them would be considered credible;

"Everything else is 'fake', 'discreditation', 'intentionally false reports' and etc.

Naturally, in such an information space, reliably purged of any opinions that deviate from the official one) the government will be very, very comfortable.

"But it is worth recalling that the Soviet regime felt just as comfortable in its own time, when there was complete thought unanimity in the information space.

"Just like Kozma Prutkoff's[4] famous project to introduce 'one prevailing opinion on all events and questions.'

"Do you remember what this led to?

"It led to the complete collapse of the feedback mechanisms between society and the authorities, and as a result, to ineffective and unmanageable decisions.

"There is no reason to believe that things will be different now."


[1], March 26, 2022

[2], March 21, 2022.

[3], March 21, 2022.

[4] Kozma Prutkov, a fictional author invented during the harsh reign of Nicholas I by Aleksei Konstantinovich Tolstoi and his cousins, the three Zhemchuzhnikov brothers.

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