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Navalny Defies Russia's New Law Against Insulting Authorities Online

Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny (file photo)
Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny (file photo)

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has defied a new law that bans online insults against Russian officials -- using Twitter to insult President Vladimir Putin’s administration.

In his March 29 act of online civil disobedience, the anti-corruption activist also insulted the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament and the ruling United Russia party.

“As of today, the law that bans offending authorities on the Internet comes into effect in Russia,” Navalny tweeted.

"I, Aleksei Navalny, state the following," he wrote. "The presidential administration and the government of the Russian Federation are a bunch of thieves, scoundrels, and enemies of Russia. The Federation Council is filled with villains. United Russia is a party of crooks and thieves."

Putin on March 18 signed the law that imposes tough new fines for Russians who spread what authorities deem to be "fake news," or who show "blatant disrespect" online for the Russian state and its authorities.

Critics say the law is a new mechanism for state censorship. Russian government officials argue that it is needed to battle false news reports and abusive online comments.

The law imposes fines up to 100,000 rubles -- more than $1,500 -- for online "disrespect" of the authorities, state agencies, state symbols, "Russian society," the Russian flag, or the Russian Constitution.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days.

It imposes fines of up to 400,000 rubles, or more than $6,000, for publishing "false information" online that leads to a "mass violation of public order."

It also grants authorities the power to block websites that fail to remove information deemed by state officials to be factually inaccurate.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev used Russia’s popular VKontakte social media network on March 29 to defend the new law.

"Authorities should learn to be tolerant of criticism, there is no doubt about that, and everyone has the right to express their views," Medvedev wrote in response to questions from VKontakte users.

"But this doesn’t mean that chaos should reign on the Internet, and on social media in particular, or the ability to insult another person in any way," Medvedev said.

With reporting by TASS