Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday signed laws that prohibit "discrediting" and spreading “fake news” about volunteers and mercenaries participating in the war in Ukraine.
Putin signed a law amending the criminal code about spreading "fakes" in relation to the Russian armed forces, extending it to also apply to volunteers and mercenaries, with the maximum punishment up to 15 years in prison.
Putin also signed a law that prohibits discrediting participants in the so-called "special operation" — Russia's euphemism for the full-scale invasion — including volunteers, according to the decree published on the country's official portal of legal information.
Violations of that law carry a punishment of up to seven years in prison.
The new law comes as Wagner fighters have become the disposable infantry of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
More about Wagner: The private military contractor is run by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been highly visible on the front lines in recent weeks – and quick to claim credit for Russian advances. Wagner fighters have been heavily involved in taking the town of Soledar, which is a few miles northeast of Bakhmut, and areas around it.
At the start of Russia's war in Ukraine last year, Russian authorities restricted access to news publications, including BBC Russia, Radio Liberty and Latvia-based Meduza.
The media outlets were added to a list of publications “containing appeals for mass riots, and participation in illegal mass rallies,” according to state news agency RIA Novosti.