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Navalny’s phoney Presidential bid and the Russian Presidential election

Alexander Mercouris

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Alexey Navalny’s attempt to overturn the decision of Russia’s Central Election Commission that he is ineligible to stand in Russia’s Presidential election in March was rejected today by Russia’s Supreme Court.

The Central Election Commission, headed by Ella Pamfilova, ruled unanimously that Navalny is ineligible to stand for election because of a previous unspent conviction for which he has received a suspended prison sentence.

The relevant legal provision would appear to be Article 3(5) of the Law on the Election of the President of the Russian Federation.

This is a Yeltsin era law and its relevant provision reads as follows

5. A citizen of the Russian Federation found incapable by a court or kept in places of confinement under a court sentence shall have no rights to elect or be elected President of the Russian Federation.

This is clear enough, with the Law granting the Central Election Commission no leeway to set the provision aside.

Navalny’s call to the Central Election Commission asking them to set the provision aside was therefore bound to fail.  The Central Election Commission would have acted unlawfully if it had agreed to do it, almost certainly exposing itself to a legal challenge had it done so.

In light of this it is impossible to see how Navalny’s Supreme Court challenge could have succeeded, and of course it has not done so.

These simple facts seem to be lost on the overwhelming majority of Western commentators who have spent the last few weeks discussing Navalny’s foredoomed Presidential bid and debating whether or not he would be “allowed” to stand, and who persist in reporting since the decision of the Central Election Commission that the Russian authorities have “banned” from Navalny from standing in the election.

Navalny has not been “banned” from standing in the election.  He cannot be “banned” from standing in an election he was legally ineligible to stand in in the first place.

Once again Western commentators who continuously demand that Russia abide by the “rule of law” in practice demand that Russia disregard its own law in favour of whatever individual the West chooses to support at any particular time.

That of course does not “support the rule of law in Russia”.  It works to undermine it.

Western commentators are on stronger ground when they say that the European Court of Human Rights overturned Navalny’s first conviction in the Kirovles case – the case in which he has received his suspended sentence – saying that the case against Navalny was politically motivated, having supposedly been brought against Navalny at the instigation of Alexander Bastrykin, the powerful head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, in retaliation for allegations of corruption Navalny had previously made against Bastrykin.

The Russian courts have however retried Navalny in the Kirovles case on the same charge – as they are legally entitled to do – and have re convicted him all over again on the same facts.

Though understandably enough this has come in for much criticism, the Central Election Commission is not a court, and it is not in a position to go behind this decision of the court.

As it happens I took a strong interest in the Kirovles case and conducted an exhaustive analysis of it at the time of the first case.

I reached the clear conclusion that if Navalny had been prosecuted before an English court on the same facts he would have been found guilty of theft, which is essentially the same offence as the one the Russian court has now twice found him guilty on.  Moreover I strongly doubt he would have escaped with only a suspended sentence.

As for Bastrykin’s involvement in the case, that was merely to scold his investigators for their timidity in acting against Navalny despite the strength of the case against him.

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights to set aside Navalny’s conviction and to criticise his prosecution as politically motivated was in my opinion straightforwardly wrong, being merely the latest example of the “lawfare” which is becoming increasingly common in international court cases involving Russia.

The European Court of Human Rights is known to have come under a great deal of criticism from Western governments and Western commentators because of its repeated Judgments against the Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky – another hero of Western governments and of the Western media- who it found had indeed committed the gigantic tax fraud the Russian authorities say he did. Frankly the Judgment in the Kirovles case looks to me like an attempt to counter this criticism.

That this was so is strongly suggested (at least to me) by the European Court of Human Rights’ very different approach in the second criminal case the Russian authorities have brought against Navalny, a case involving an alleged fraud by Navalny and his brother of Yves Rocher Vostok, the Russian subsidiary of the French Yves Rocher company.

To anyone familiar with the facts of the Kirovles case the facts of the Yves Rocher case look very similar and show an almost identical pattern of behaviour.

In both cases a private company was set up to provide a service previously provided by a publicly owned company, in the first case the Kirovles timber company, in the second case Russian Post.

In the Kirovles case Navalny and in the Yves Rocher case his brother had no visible role in the private company but in both cases they in fact controlled it.

In both cases there was an alleged abuse of public office, in the Kirovles case by Navalny himself acting in his capacity as an unpaid adviser of the Kirov Regional Government, in the Yves Rocher case by his brother acting in his capacity as a manager of Russian Post.

In both cases this was done to obtain lucrative contracts for the private company on favourable terms.  In both cases this led to an economic loss, in the first case to Kirovles, in the second case to Yves Rocher Vostok.

In both cases this loss would not have arisen if the contracts had not been made.

As in the Kirovles case the European Court of Human Rights in the Yves Rocher case set aside Navalny’s conviction and the Russian court’s Judgment against him and his brother.  However in this case the panel was far less sympathetic to Navalny than the Court’s panel was in the Kirovles case, as its brief Judgment makes clear.

Not only did the panel flatly refuse to say that the Yves Rocher case was politically motivated (hiding behind a technicality to avoid even looking at the issue) but it also refused to look in any detail into Navalny’s claims that the trial was unfair and rejected other claims he brought as completely unfounded.

The panel moreover limited itself to setting aside the Russian court’s Judgment on a very narrow point: that the contract between the Navalny controlled private company and Yves Rocher Vostok appeared to be lawful on its face, and appeared to have been performed lawfully.

Whilst that may be true, it ignores the circumstances in which the contract was made, which is where the fraud (if it exists) presumably lies. It is after all hardly unusual for thieves and fraudsters to conceal their activities behind a facade of legality, and that presumably is what the Russian authorities and Yves Rocher Vostok allege happened in this case.

That the panel knows this perfectly well and knows that there is more to the case than it chose to see is shown by these otherwise gratuitous words about Navalny which appear in its Judgment

58. In the light of the above-mentioned principles,the Court notes that it is not its task to rule on the applicants’ individual criminal responsibility, that being primarily a matter for the domestic courts, but to consider, from the standpoint of Article 7 § 1 of the Convention, whether the acts the applicants were convicted of fell within a definition of a criminal offence which was sufficiently accessible and foreseeable.

(bold italics added)

These words seem to hint at a criminal side to Navalny’s and his brother’s behaviour despite the Judgment setting aside their conviction, with the panel’s reference in another part of the Judgment to the fact that the Russian authorities intend retry the case perhaps hinting at the same thing.

Claims that the European Court of Human Rights awarded Navalny and his brother record compensation in the case are incidentally untrue.  The Court actually refused most of their claims for compensation and only awarded them compensation of 10,000 euros each.  The much larger sums some have cited conflate the compensation the Court awarded with the payment of legal costs, which they were entitled to because they won the case.

All in all my impression of the Judgment is that the European Court of Human Rights in the face of Western criticism once more bent over backwards to find in Navalny’s favour but on this occasion could not wholly conceal its disquiet at doing so.

Others of course are at liberty to disagree.  However saying that does bring me to what is for me the abiding mystery about Navalny.

This is the sympathy some people still have for him, which turns up in all sorts of unexpected places, despite his deeply unattractive personality as exposed by his behaviour in the two cases which have been brought against him, and in the straightforwardly racist comments he makes from time to time.

In the Kirovles case on the most generous reading Navalny abused his position as an unpaid adviser of the Kirov Regional Government to get Kirovles to hive off part of its business to a private company owned by a friend of his even though he had no authority or remit to do this.  Moreover when complaints about this and about how it was losing Kirovles money began to appear, his first response was to try to get those who were bringing the complaints sacked.  Afterwards, when this failed and the complaints continued, he fled the scene without either resigning his office or explaining himself, leaving behind him a burgeoning financial scandal and a pile of unanswered questions.

As for the Yves Rocher case, here is how the European Court of Human Rights summarises the actions of Navalny’s brother, who it is agreed carried out his actions in close cooperation with Navalny himself

The trial court found in particular that the applicants had set up a “fake company”, GPA, with the intention to use it as an intermediary to offer services to two clients of Russian Post, MPK and Yves Rocher Vostok. It held that Oleg Navalnyy had taken advantage of insider information that Russian Post had ceased to provide the companies with certain services and had convinced those clients to use GPA as a substitute; that he had misled the clients about GPA’s pricing policy and its relationship with Russian Post, thus depriving them of the freedom of choice of service providers; that he had promoted his company’s services while knowing that it would have to subcontract the work to other companies; and that GPA had retained the difference in price between what MPK and Yves Rocher Vostok paid for its services and what GPA paid to its subcontractors.

Note that the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights does not dispute or cast doubt on any of this.

Even those who profess to see nothing criminal in this behaviour should admit that it is at the very least manipulative and exploitative.

In the Kirovles case Navalny used his position to get Kirovles to give part of its business to the company of a friend of his at a loss to itself.

In the Yves Rocher case the Navalny brothers used Oleg Navalny’s position as a manager of Russian Post to trick Russian Post’s clients into obtaining services from a company the Navalny brothers controlled that were actually being provided by others at a lower cost than the clients were being charged.

I am at a total loss to see how this manipulative and parasitical behaviour – exploiting public office and the hard work of others to make an unearned gain – is remotely appropriate behaviour for someone who poses as an anti-corruption campaigner and as an entrepreneur.

Is this really the sort of behaviour one wants to see from someone who pitches himself as a future President of Russia?

Back in the 1980s Boris Yeltsin rode to power on the claim that he was the implacable enemy of corruption and unearned privilege.  Naive belief in this claim blinded people to the obvious flaws in Yeltsin’s personality as well as to his well established incompetence as a manager.  The result was calamitous, with corruption and unearned privilege increasing under Yeltsin’s rule to levels never seen before in Russia.

It is unnerving that in Navalny’s case there still seem to be people sufficiently blinded by his self-serving anti-corruption rhetoric to make the same mistake all over again.

Having said this, one should not make the mistake of exaggerating Navalny’s popularity and importance.  Whereas Yeltsin in the 1980s managed to achieve a critical mass of support amongst the Russian population, there is no evidence of anything like that happening in Navalny’s case.

Though Navalny continues to be heavily promoted by the Western media, there is no evidence that support for him extends beyond Russia’s tiny and devotedly pro-Western liberal community, which continues to be overwhelmingly concentrated in Moscow.

Even in Moscow the extent of Navalny’s support is exaggerated.  The much cited 27% he won in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election is misleading being entirely the product of an unexpectedly low 33% turnout in the election, which exaggerated the appearance of his support because of the higher turnout of his more highly motivated followers.

In reality the proportion of Moscow’s electorate who voted for Navalny in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election was below the normal range of 11-15% of the Moscow electorate which can usually be relied upon to vote for a liberal candidate.  At 9% it was significantly below what liberal candidates like Yavlinsky and Prokhorov had achieved in previous elections (see my detailed discussion of the 2013 Moscow mayoral election here).

Outside Moscow support for Navalny falls away.  Contrary to what the Western media claims there has been no evidence of any great groundswell of support for him across the country over the last year.  The last (legal) protests he staged in support of his Presidential bid attracted no more than 10,000 people across the whole country, a fact which shows how limited support for him really is.

Which brings me back to the subject of Navalny’s Presidential bid.

Navalny is by training a lawyer and it beggars belief that he has not been aware all along of what Ella Pamfilova the liberal former Yeltsin era minister who heads Russia’s Central Election Commission pointed out to him, which is that he is ineligible to stand for election as Russia’s President.

Notwithstanding this Navalny has for months conducted a Presidential campaign and solicited donations from the Russian public in support of a Presidential bid he must have known would never take place.

This sort of deceitful and manipulative behaviour – so similar to his behaviour in the Kirovles and Yves Rocher cases – is bad enough in itself, and ought in any rational world to put paid to Navalny’s reputation as a fearless anti corruption campaigner.  However in this case it gets worse.

It appears that rather than close down his campaign and refund the money donated for a Presidential bid which can never happen Navalny instead intends to use the money and the organisation he has built up to campaign for an election boycott.  That this is not the purpose for which the money was given appears not to bother him or his admirers at all.

As it happens I suspect that creating a pretext for a campaign to boycott the election was the true purpose of Navalny’s Presidential bid all along.

I also suspect that it was the true reason why the Western media and Western governments have been so noisily backing his bogus Presidential bid: not because they see Navalny as a serious challenger to Putin but because they want to use Navalny’s inevitable exclusion from the election as a pretext to cast doubt on its legitimacy and on the legitimacy of Putin’s re-election when (as everyone expects) it happens.

Whilst that tactic will no doubt work with some people in the West (though I question how many people really care about an election in Russia), I doubt it will impress many people in Russia itself, where most people have long since become wise to this sort of thing.

However it shows yet again that whilst no proof of Russian meddling in any Western elections has ever come to light, Western meddling in Russian elections is not just unashamed and continuous, but happens openly in full light of day.

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Trump Demands Tribute from NATO Vassals

The one thing that we should all understand, and which Trump perfectly and clearly understands, is that the members of NATO are a captive audience.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Tim Kirby via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Regardless of whether one loves or hates President Trump at least we can say that his presidency has a unique flavor and is full of surprises. Bush and Obama were horribly dull by comparison. Trump as a non-politician from the world of big (real estate) business and media has a different take on many issues including NATO.

Many, especially in Russia were hoping that “The Donald’s” campaign criticism of NATO would move towards finally putting an end to this anti-Russian alliance, which, after the fall of Communism really has no purpose, as any real traditional military threats to Europe have faded into history. However, Trump as President of the United States has to engage in the “realpolitik” of 21st century America and try to survive and since Trump seems rather willing to lie to get what he wants, who can really say which promises from his campaign were a shoot and which were a work.

So as it stands now Trump’s recent decision to maintain and build US/NATO bases across the world “and make country X pay for it” could mean anything from him trying to keep his campaign promises in some sort of skewed way, to an utter abandonment of them and submission to the swamp. Perhaps it could simply be his business instincts taking over in the face of “wasteful spending”. Making allies have to pay to have US/NATO forces on their territory is a massive policy shift that one could only predict coming from the unpredictable 45th President.

The one thing that we should all understand, and which Trump perfectly and clearly understands, is that the members of NATO (and other “allies”) are a captive audience, especially Germany, Japan and South Korea, which “coincidentally” are the first set of countries that will have to pay the “cost + 50%” to keep bases and US soldiers on their soil. Japan’s constitution, written primarily by American occupation forces forbids them from having a real military which is convenient for Trump’s plan. South Korea, although a very advanced and wealthy nation has no choice but to hide behind the US might because if it were to disappear overnight, then Gangnam would be filled with pictures of the Kim family within a few weeks.

In the past with regard to these three countries NATO has had to keep up the illusion of wanting to “help” them and work as “partners” for common defense as if nuclear and economic titan America needs countries like them to protect itself. Trump whether consciously or not is changing the dynamic of US/NATO occupation of these territories to be much more honest. His attitude seems to be that the US has the possibility to earn a lot of money from a worldwide mafia-style protection scam. Vassals have no choice but to pay the lord so Trump wants to drop the illusions and make the military industrial complex profitable again and God bless him for it. This level of honesty in politics is refreshing and it reflects the Orange Man’s pro-business and “America will never be a socialist country” attitude. It is blunt and ideologically consistent with his worldview.

On the other hand, one could look at this development as a possible move not to turn NATO into a profitable protection scam but as a means to covertly destroy it. Lies and illusion in politics are very important, people who believe they are free will not rebel even if they have no freedom whatsoever. If people are sure their local leaders are responsible for their nation they will blame them for its failings rather than any foreign influence that may actually be pulling the real strings.

Even if everyone in Germany, Japan and South Korea in their subconscious knows they are basically occupied by US forces it is much harder to take action, than if the “lord” directly demands yearly tribute. The fact that up to this point US maintains its bases on its own dime sure adds to the illusion of help and friendship. This illusion is strong enough for local politicians to just let the status quo slide on further and further into the future. Nothing is burning at their feet to make them act… having to pay cost + 50% could light that fire.

Forcing the locals to pay for these bases changes the dynamic in the subconscious and may force people’s brains to contemplate why after multiple-generations the former Axis nations still have to be occupied. Once occupation becomes expensive and uncomfortable, this drops the illusion of friendship and cooperation making said occupation much harder to maintain.

South Korea knows it needs the US to keep out the North but when being forced to pay for it this may push them towards developing the ability to actually defend themselves. Trump’s intellectual “honesty” in regards to NATO could very well plant the necessary intellectual seeds to not just change public opinion but make public action against US/NATO bases in foreign countries. Japan has had many protests over the years against US bases surging into the tens of thousands. This new open vassal status for the proud Japanese could be the straw to break the camel’s back.

Predicting the future is impossible. But it is clear that, changing the fundamental dynamic by which the US maintains foreign bases in a way that will make locals financially motivated to have them removed, shall significantly affect the operations of US forces outside the borders of the 50 States and make maintaining a global presence even more difficult, but perhaps this is exactly what the Orange Man wants or is just too blind to see.

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High-ranking Ukrainian official reports on US interference in Ukraine

It is not usually the case that an American media outlet tells the truth about Ukraine, but it appears to have happened here.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Hill committed what may well have been a random act of journalism when it reported that Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Yuriy Lutsenko, told Hill.tv’s reporter John Solomon that the American ambassador to that country, Marie Yovanovitch, gave him a “do not prosecute” list at their first meeting.

Normally, all things Russia are covered by the American press as “bad”, and all things Ukraine are covered by the same as “good.” Yet this report reveals quite a bit about the nature of the deeply embedded US interests that are involved in Ukraine, and which also attempt to control and manipulate policy in the former Soviet republic.

The Hill’s piece continues (with our added emphases):

“Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko, who took his post in 2016, told Hill.TV last week.

“My response of that is it is inadmissible. Nobody in this country, neither our president nor our parliament nor our ambassador, will stop me from prosecuting whether there is a crime,” he continued.

Indeed, the Prosecutor General appears to be a man of some principles. When this report was brought to the attention of the US State Department, the response was predictable:

The State Department called Lutsenko’s claim of receiving a do not prosecute list, “an outright fabrication.” 

“We have seen reports of the allegations,” a department spokesperson told Hill.TV. “The United States is not currently providing any assistance to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), but did previously attempt to support fundamental justice sector reform, including in the PGO, in the aftermath of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. When the political will for genuine reform by successive Prosecutors General proved lacking, we exercised our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer and redirected assistance to more productive projects.”

This is an amazing statement in itself. “Our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer”? Are Americans even aware that their country is spending their tax dollars in an effort to manipulate a foreign government in what can probably well be called a low-grade proxy war with the Russian Federation? Again, this appears to be a slip, as most American media do a fair job of maintaining the narrative that Ukraine is completely independent and that its actions regarding the United States and Russia are taken in complete freedom.

Hill.TV has reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine for comment.

Lutsenko also said that he has not received funds amounting to nearly $4 million that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine was supposed to allocate to his office, saying that “the situation was actually rather strange” and pointing to the fact that the funds were designated, but “never received.”

“At that time we had a case for the embezzlement of the U.S. government technical assistance worth 4 million U.S. dollars, and in that regard, we had this dialogue,” he said. “At that time, [Yovanovitch] thought that our interviews of Ukrainian citizens, of Ukrainian civil servants, who were frequent visitors of the U.S. Embassy put a shadow on that anti-corruption policy.”

“Actually, we got the letter from the U.S. Embassy, from the ambassador, that the money that we are speaking about [was] under full control of the U.S. Embassy, and that the U.S. Embassy did not require our legal assessment of these facts,” he said. “The situation was actually rather strange because the funds we are talking about were designated for the prosecutor general’s office also and we told [them] we have never seen those, and the U.S. Embassy replied there was no problem.”

“The portion of the funds, namely 4.4 million U.S. dollars were designated and were foreseen for the recipient Prosecutor General’s office. But we have never received it,” he said.

Yovanovitch previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Armenia under former presidents Obama and George W. Bush, as well as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan under Bush. She also served as ambassador to Ukraine under Obama.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who was at the time House Rules Committee chairman, voiced concerns about Yovanovitch in a letter to the State Department last year in which he said he had proof the ambassador had spoken of her “disdain” for the Trump administration.

This last sentence may be a way to try to narrow the scope of American interference in Ukraine down to the shenanigans of just a single person with a personal agenda. However, many who have followed the story of Ukraine and its surge in anti-Russian rhetoric, neo-Naziism, ultra-nationalism, and the most recent events surrounding the creation of a pseudo-Orthodox “church” full of Ukrainian nationalists and atheists as a vehicle to import “Western values” into a still extremely traditional and Christian land, know that there are fingerprints of the United States “deep state” embeds all over this situation.

It is somewhat surprising that so much that reveals the problem showed up in just one report. It will be interesting to see if this gets any follow-up in the US press.

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President Putin’s anti-fake news law is brilliant, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. This law is brilliant, for it hits the would-be slanderer right where it counts – in the pocketbook.

We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?

Definitely.

Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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