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Russian law on 'fake news' prompts media to halt reporting as websites blocked

Commodities Mar 05, 2022 12:16AM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. A rescue van is seen at the site after the shelling attack by the Russian army, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, March 3, 2022 in this still image obtained from a social media video. State Emergency Services Of Ukraine/via RE 2/3

By Pavel Polityuk and Aleksandar Vasovic

LVIV, Ukraine/KYIV (Reuters) - Russia blocked Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and some other websites on Friday and passed a law that gave Moscow much stronger powers to crack down on independent journalism, prompting the BBC, Bloomberg and other foreign media to suspend reporting in the country.

Moscow's attack on Ukraine, the biggest on a European state since World War Two, has created over 1 million refugees, a barrage of sanctions and fears of a global economic hit and wider conflict in the West unthought-of for decades.

Fighting was raging in Ukraine as Russian troops besieged and bombarded cities in the second week of an invasion that has isolated Moscow, which says its attack is a "special operation" to capture individuals it regards as dangerous nationalists.

Kyiv, in the path of a Russian armoured column that has been stalled outside the Ukrainian capital for days, came under renewed assault, with explosions audible from the city centre. Europe's biggest nuclear power plant had also been seized.

The southeastern port city of Mariupol - a key prize for the Russian forces - has been encircled and shelled. There is no water, heat or electricity and it is running out of food after five days under attack, according to Mayor Vadym Boychenko.

"We are simply being destroyed," he said.

Putin's actions have drawn almost universal condemnation and many countries have imposed heavy sanctions as the West balances punishment with avoiding a widening of the conflict.

Fighting back in the information war, Russia's parliament passed a law imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally "fake" news about the military.

"This law will force punishment - and very tough punishment - on those who lied and made statements which discredited our armed forces," the chairman of the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin said.

Russia is blocking Facebook for restricting state-backed channels and the websites of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America.

The BBC, Bloomberg News and other foreign media said they would temporarily suspend the work of their journalists in Russia while they assessed the situation.

A glut of global brands have halted operations or exited completely while shipping and supply chain issues have made it difficult to work in Russia.

French luxury fashion house Chanel said on Friday it is halting all business in Russia while tech giant Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is suspending sales of its products and services.

Samsung Electronics (OTC:SSNLF) said it was suspending shipments to Russia and donating $6 million to support humanitarian efforts.

'DANGEROUS NEW ESCALATION'

As the battle between Russia and the West escalates on a number of fronts, the United States has warned the conflict in Ukraine is a threat to the rules-based order.

But at a meeting on Friday, NATO allies rejected Ukraine's appeal for no-fly zones, saying they were increasing support but that stepping in directly could make the situation worse.

"We have a responsibility... to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and would cause even more human suffering," said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy slammed the summit as "weak" and "confused." "It was clear that not everyone considers the battle for Europe's freedom to be the number one goal," he said.

He will participate in a Zoom call with the U.S. Senate on Saturday.

A humanitarian disaster is also unfolding, with more than one million people seeking refuge in western Ukraine and in neighbouring countries.

An attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, about 140 miles (225 km) west of Mariupol, brought the conflict to a perilous moment.

As shells hit the area, a training building caught fire - triggering a spasm of alarm around the world before the blaze was extinguished and officials said the facility was safe.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the world had narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe.

The attack reflected a "dangerous new escalation" in Russia's invasion, she said during an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, warning that "imminent danger" persisted and demanding assurances from Moscow that such an assault will not happen again.

An official at Energoatom, the Ukrainian state nuclear plant operator, told Reuters fighting had ceased and radiation levels were normal. But his organisation no longer had contact with the plant's managers or control over its nuclear material, he said.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Raphael Grossi said the plant was undamaged from what he believed was a Russian projectile. Only one of its six reactors was working, at around 60% of capacity.

Russia's defence ministry also said the plant was working normally. It blamed the fire on an attack by Ukrainian saboteurs and said its forces were in control.

The plant and adjacent territory were now being guarded by Russian troops, Moscow's envoy to the United Nations said.

DEFENDING KYIV

Moscow denies targeting civilians in Ukraine and says its aim is to disarm its neighbour, counter what it views as NATO aggression and capture leaders it calls neo-Nazis.

Ukraine and its Western allies call that a baseless pretext for a war to conquer a country of 44 million people.

More EU sanctions were coming, potentially including a ban on Russian-flagged ships in European ports and blocking imports of steel, timber, aluminium or coal, said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

The United States is weighing cuts to imports of Russian oil and ways to minimize the impact on global supplies and consumers as lawmakers fast-track a bill that would ban Russian energy imports entirely.

In Kyiv's Borshchahivka neighbourhood, the twisted engine of a cruise missile lay in the street where it had apparently been downed overnight by Ukrainian air defences.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said an advance had been halted on the southern port of Mykolayiv. If captured, the city of 500,000 people would be the biggest yet to fall.

Russian forces have made their biggest advances in the south, where they captured their first sizeable Ukrainian city, Kherson, this week. Bombing has worsened in recent days in the northeast cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv.

Ukrainians have been fleeing west, many crowding into Lviv near the Polish border.

James Elder of the United Nations children's agency said doctors in Lviv were preparing a system to identify children in case of mass casualties.

"A green dot means fine over here, a yellow dot means critical support. They are learning a black dot means the child won't make it," he said.

Russian law on 'fake news' prompts media to halt reporting as websites blocked
 

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Comments (31)
gab nea
gab nea Mar 06, 2022 7:12AM ET
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ban fake news in Russia? lamo, there will be no news then.
ZS Beck
ZS Beck Mar 05, 2022 9:40AM ET
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Soon it will be marshall law, declared by Putin and he will officially he will be a dictator. Anybody will have a say so, will be punished with 15 years in prison.It's time to squeeze all his elite friends and families and size everything they own unless they overthrow Putin.Russia needss to be free.
gab nea
gab nea Mar 05, 2022 6:29AM ET
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do not believe their lies, only believe mine.
jason xx
jason xx Mar 05, 2022 5:34AM ET
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putin taking a page out of the trump play book. Just lie about everything like it's a concrete fact.
Tom Sc
Tom Sc Mar 05, 2022 5:34AM ET
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uh oh. get ready for all the bizarre pro trumpers that love communist dictators. the ones that allegedly love "freedom" but just not for other people I guess? it's very strange
gab nea
gab nea Mar 05, 2022 5:34AM ET
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two peas in a pod.
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 05, 2022 5:34AM ET
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Tom, putin is not a communist, he's a fascist authoritarian, just like his no.1 groupie trump
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Mar 05, 2022 12:30AM ET
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if it was it would describe putin to a T
John Miller
John Miller Mar 05, 2022 12:28AM ET
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isn't it funny stalin is acceptable in a message, but not ****
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Mar 05, 2022 12:28AM ET
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1979 the Russians invaded then destroyed, the legitimate government of Afganistan and installed a Russian supported flunky. the Russians then sustained incredible loses in both man and material at the hands of the the Afganistan insurgency, and finish in 1988, by running back to Russia with their tails between their legs. it was one of the major reasons the Russian economy failed and the soviet union collapsed. legs. it was one of the major reasons the Russian economy failed and the soviet union collapsed. looks like the Russian dictatorship and it's military are in for a repeat of Russian stupidity.
Andrew Allen
Andrew Allen Mar 05, 2022 12:28AM ET
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change the year to 2003 and the invaders the USA and you'll have the exact same story
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Mar 05, 2022 12:23AM ET
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in 1979 the Russians invaded then destroyed the legitimate government of Afganistan and installed a Russian supported flunky. the Russians then sustained incredible loses in both man and material, at the hands of the the Afganistan insurgency, and finish in 1988, by running back to Russia with their tails between in 1979 the Russians invaded then destroyed the legitimate government of Afganistan and installed a Russian supported flunky. the Russians then sustained incredible loses in both man and material, at the hands of the the Afganistan insurgency, and finish in 1988, by running back to Russia with their tails between their legs. it was one of the major reasons the Russian economy failed and the soviet union collapsed. legs. it was one of the major reasons the Russian economy failed and the soviet union collapsed. looks like the Russian dictatorship and it's military are in for a repeat Russian stupidity.
John Miller
John Miller Mar 05, 2022 12:20AM ET
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h I t l e r
John Miller
John Miller Mar 05, 2022 12:19AM ET
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I can't decide if Putin is more like Stalin or ******
 
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