On March 5 President Putin signed into force a new law calling for sentences of up to 15 years in prison for people who distribute false information about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Many and international and domestic media outlets have already suspended or shut down their operations in Russia. The Investigative Committee instituted criminal proceedings against bloggers Veronika Belotserkovskaya, Alexander Nevzorov and other people as a result of their posts containing "false information".
The company Meta Platforms Inc. and its social media networks Facebook и Instagram has been banned from operating in Russia. The General Prosecutor's Office declared the company as extremist as they allow users to call for violence against the Russian military and to wish death to the presidents of Russia and Belarus. The ban will not affect the messenger WhatsApp as its function is not to disseminate information to the public.
The Russian Federation's exit from the Council of Europe, Europe's top human rights watchdog, means victims of the Kremlin will now find it hard to hold authorities accountable. The ECHR released a statement after Russia's withdrawal, stating that the court has "decided to suspend the examination of all applications against the Russian Federation". The possibility of access to an independent judiciary was extremely important for Russian citizens, especially at a time when the work of human rights organisations in the country has been subjected to severe restrictions. In 2021 alone, the court dealt with around 6,000 applications concerning Russia.
On March 22, a Moscow court found Alexey Navalny guilty of fraud and contempt of court. Therefore, he has been sentenced to an additional nine years in a maximum-security prison and to pay a 1.2 million rubles fine (around € 11.000). The trial took place inside the prison colony, where he is serving 2.5 years for allegedly violating parole while in recovery abroad.
Supermarkets in Greece now restrict how much flour and sunflower oil customers can buy as a precautionary measure after a demand rise due to fear the supplies will be hit because of the war in Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine are key suppliers of sunflower oil and wheat for Greece, which imports about 250,000 tonnes of soft wheat from them, 30% of its total wheat imports.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, 2.3 million people have crossed the Ukrainian border into Poland. On 27 March, Border Guard officers carried out 27,000 border checks on people entering from Ukraine, a drop of 13.3 per cent compared to the previous day.
Source: The First News
A group of veteran Russian human rights activists wants to publish an open letter calling on Russia to end the war in Ukraine. 11 prominent activists such as Lev Ponomaryov, Oleg Orlov and Svetlana Gannushkina have already signed it. They also plan to create a new anti-war council of Russian human rights defenders. Their main goals are to prevent Russians from taking part in the war and to get accurate information about Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine.
Source: The Guardian
The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, long seen as President Putin’s closest ally in the European Union, tried to assert Hungary’s neutrality in the war in Ukraine. He has refused to supply Ukraine with military aid and insisted EU sanctions against Russia not be extended to the energy sector, considered one of the EU’s most effective means for putting pressure on the Kremlin. Recently Ukrainian President Zelenskyy appealed to Orban to take a clear stance on this war.
Anatoly Bibilov, the leader of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, says the Moscow-backed territory is planning to take steps in the near future to become part of Russia. Russia recognised South Ossetia as an independent state in 2008 after fighting a short war with Georgia. It has provided the separatist region with extensive financial support, offered Russian citizenship to its population and stationed thousands of Russian troops there.