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Putin: Criticism of power has to be free and unimpeded

The Russian people are free to criticize the authorities on any level, Vladimir Putin said when asked about a law which opponents say could be used by officials to punish people who speak out against them.

“The criticism of power has to be free. People have the right and have to draw attention to problems, including those in the work of the institution of power. It’s obvious,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said before explaining that the main goal of the law is to protect Russia and its people from insults.

“I absolutely agree that nobody can abuse this legislation to restrict the right of the people to criticize the authorities on any level. We will be monitoring such things,” he added.

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The way the law is implemented has to correspond with its goal.

The legislation, which was signed into law in March, changed regulations in media, information technology, and data protection. The changes make offensive online speech against symbols of Russia and institutions of power a fineable offence. Websites that fail to delete this type of content after a complaint may also be suspended. An insult targeting an official may result in a fine under the new rules if it directly relates to their actions in office.

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