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Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared that all military deaths — in peacetime as well as wartime — will be classified as state secrets, with violations punishable by up to seven years in prison. Activists worry the move might further discourage reporting of Russian solders’ deaths in Ukraine.

The Guardian reports:

The Russian president has amended a decree to extend the list of state secrets to include information on casualties during special operations when war has not been declared, among other changes. Previously, the list had only forbidden (pdf) “revealing personnel losses in wartime”. He has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops in a pro-Russian rebellion in Ukraine.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that the changes were not connected to the conflict in Ukraine. Revealing state secrets is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

“I don’t know what [the new decree] is connected with, but the bolsheviks and Russian authorities never revealed any casualty numbers, except after South Ossetia,” she said, referring to the 2008 conflict during which Russian troops established control of the Georgian breakaway region. “It was always considered a state secret. Now Putin has just made this official.”

Sergei Krivenko, a member of the presidential human rights council, said the decree “raises many questions” and could serve to intimidate activists, journalists or relatives who report the deaths of Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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