(Bloomberg) -- Russian authorities are pushing through a raft of new repressive measures against domestic opponents, expanding crackdowns on critics as the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine is in its fifth month.
Legislators have approved new proposals to dramatically broaden treason statutes, as well as restrictions on “foreign agents,” a legal category that’s been used widely against critics and independent journalists. Another new draft law would restrict the publication of any information deemed to be of use by “unfriendly countries” in targeting sanctions. The moves all have strong Kremlin support.
Already-restrictive rules on public protests are being further tightened as thousands of Russians have been detained for speaking out against the war. Prosecutions under wartime censorship laws have mounted and even loyalists have found themselves targeted.
Last week, Vladimir Mau, an economist who advised President Vladimir Putin and heads a top state-run university, was placed under house arrest in a corruption case that was widely seen as a warning to insiders. Mau had been among a number of university officials who signed a public letter in March backing the invasion of Ukraine. He called the charges against him “absurd.”
The new wave of repression comes as polls show public support for the invasion and Putin remain strong amid tight Kremlin control over the media. The impact of sanctions imposed by the US and Europe so far has been relatively limited for consumers, despite rising prices and falling retail sales.
“There’s a clear trend toward escalating repression,” said Denis Volkov, head of the Levada Center, an independent pollster that has itself been designated as a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities. Survey data show Russians broadly back censorship and other restrictions amid the war, he said.
“The basis of support is the unmodernized conservative views of the poor segments of society who depend on the state,” he said. While backing for Putin is up, support for the war has slipped a bit since the spring, according to Volkov.
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