Putin bans criticism of the mercenaries propping up Russia's war in Ukraine

Russians know that the mercenaries employed to bolster the country's bogged-down invasion of Ukraine are bad news, and they talk about it. Not any more, if they want to stay out of jail: Vladimir Putin signed a law Sunday that makes it a crime to "discredit" any force fighting alongside regular troops. The Moscow Times:

The new legislation, which had been lobbied by Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, makes it a crime to publicly criticize or spread so-called "false information" about volunteer forces as well as private mercenary units. Violators face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 300,000 rubles (nearly $4,000) for "public actions" aimed at "discrediting…volunteer formations, organizations or individuals" aiding the Russian military, if that action was committed within a year since the first offense. In cases when such "public actions" are deemed to have led to grave consequences — including unintentional death or bodily harm — the punishment would be increased to up to seven years in prison or a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($13,300).