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Russia Cracks Down on Critics of Military Actions in Ukraine

Vladimir Kara-Murza (ABC News: Steve Cannane)
Vladimir Kara-Murza (ABC News: Steve Cannane)

Russian authorities kept up their crackdown against citizens who speak out about the fighting in Ukraine, extending a critic’s detention on Wednesday, confirming charges against two others and prompting Moscow’s chief rabbi to flee the country.

Russia adopted a law criminalizing spreading allegedly false information about its military shortly after its troops rolled into Ukraine in late February. The offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Human rights advocates have counted dozens of cases. Russians must use the term “military operation” when speaking of the fighting in Ukraine.

In the latest development, a Moscow court on Wednesday extended the detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., a journalist and former associate of assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. The court extended Kara-Murza’s detention from June 12 to Aug. 12 on accusations that he spread “false information” about the country’s armed forces. The activist rejects the charges.

Kara-Murza in 2015 and 2017 survived poisonings that he blamed on the authorities. Russian officials have denied responsibility.

Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, who spent years exposing the activities of Russian security agencies and is now living in London, reported this week that a criminal case had been opened against him. Soldatov is accused of spreading false information about the Russian military. Soldatov reported that his bank accounts in Russia have been frozen.

Russian authorities confirmed they have filed similar charges against popular Russian fiction writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, who also now lives outside of Russia. Glukhovsky had posted a video showing a tank shelling a residential building in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, along with commentary criticizing Russia’s military operation. He is a former journalist and author of the best-selling novel “Metro-2033.”

Aside from criminal prosecutions, public figures in Russia have reportedly faced pressure from the authorities to publicly announce their support of the country’s military operations in Ukraine. The latest example is Pinchas Goldschmidt, Moscow’s chief rabbi.

The Times of Israel reports that Goldschmidt refused to make such statements and has now decided to stay in Israel. The newspaper quoted his daughter-in-law Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt.

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