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Russians could face jail time for spreading 'fake' news about the military, parliament votes

Russian lawmakers on Friday unanimously passed legislation punishing those who intentionally spread "fake" news regarding the country's military with up to 15 years of jail time, Reuters and The Moscow Times report.

Lawmakers also imposed fines for those who publicly call for sanctions against Russia.

Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that the country's enemies — like the U.S. and its Western allies — have been spreading false information to "sow discord among the Russian people," Reuters writes. 

"Literally by tomorrow, this law will force punishment - and very tough punishment - on those who lied and made statements which discredited our armed forces," said Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin of the law, per Reuters. The Duma is the lower house of parliament in Russia.

Those found guilty of disseminating qualifying "false information" may face up to three years in prison or a 1.5 million ruble fine; for those guilty of using an "official position" to spread "false information," the punishment increases to 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to 5 million rubles, Variety writes per Russian news agency TASS.

"If the fake information caused serious consequences, the term of imprisonment will be from 10 to 15 years," TASS explains, per Variety.

The legislation was reportedly approved by both houses of parliament, says The Associated Press, and "is now set to be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin to take effect as soon as Saturday."

Russian media outlets have also been told to refer to the ongoing invasion as a "special military operation," and to only use officially sanctioned sources when reporting on Ukraine, Variety adds.

The new censorship law arrives after the country's communication watchdog blocked multiple foreign media outlets — like BBC, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle — for spreading "fake" information, Axios notes.