Putin calls for stepping up fight against destabilization

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called on prosecutors to increase pressure on ‘destabilization attempts’ The internal situation of Russia in the midst of the Ukrainian offensive.

Moscow has stepped up its crackdown on critical voices since sending troops to Ukraine last year, introducing new legislation to silence dissent.

“I ask you to react harshly to attempts to destabilize the socio-political situation in the country,” Putin said during a meeting with the Russian prosecutor general’s office.

“Prosecutors should be more active in the fight against extremism,” Putin added.

Moscow has used the extremist label to target opposition figures and civil society organizations.

The organization of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was branded in 2021 as “extremist”, allowing the detention of several of its supporters and the sending of others into exile abroad.

Russia’s list of extremist organizations includes jihadist groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses and, since 2022, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, US tech giant Meta.

Last year, 23 foreign NGOs were declared “undesirable” in Russia, Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian offensive, Russia passed new legislation against critics, including a law criminalizing what authorities consider “fake news” about the military.

Authorities have arrested at least 19,500 people protesting the conflict, according to a tally by rights watchdog group OVD-Info.

The conflict also sparked a series of arson attacks on military description offices.

A Russian military court on Wednesday sentenced Kirill Butylin, 22, to 13 years in prison for burning down a recruiting office in a town outside Moscow, Russian news agencies reported.

Putin also asked prosecutors to strengthen “the protection of the fundamental rights of servicemen, participants and veterans of the special military operation” in Ukraine.

“We are creating large-scale positive changes aimed at strengthening the country’s sovereignty and its future,” Putin said.

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