Multiple Russian Party Members Arrested, Fined for Denouncing Putin's War

Russia has ramped up its crackdown on opposition to Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war by arresting and fining party members, lawyers and activists who have publicly denounced the ongoing conflict.

Oleg Mammadov, an activist and member of Russia's Libertarian Party, is just one of a growing number of people across the country who have been punished in the wake of new stringent laws that effectively criminalize all criticism of Putin's war.

In the early hours of Friday morning, Mammadov's apartment was searched, the social media channels of the branch of the Libertarian Party in Bashkortostan, Russia, said in a statement.

The 20-year-old wasn't at home, but his grandmother was, the statement said, noting that Russian security forces told her that the search was being conducted because "Oleg is allegedly spreading fake [information] about the [Russian] army on his Telegram channel."

Russian security forces reportedly seized an old laptop, a router, and also looked through messages on Mammadov's grandmother's phone.

The activist's whereabouts are currently unknown.

Vocal Critic of Putin

A vocal critic of Putin's war against Ukraine, which began in February, Mammadov was fined 45,000 rubles (USD $831) in March for discrediting Russia's armed forces, and served four days of administrative arrest. He pasted anti-war stickers around city streets.

According to independent Russian-language news outlet, Idel.Realii, he faces up to three years in prison if detained.

"What else can be done? We live in an increasingly authoritarian state," he told the outlet.

It comes months into Putin's war against Ukraine, and weeks after Russia's parliament passed legislation imposing a prison sentence of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading "fake" news about Russia's military.

Russia has put the law into practice to crack down against those who speak ill of Putin's war, in a worsening of freedom of speech in the country.

As of mid-May, Russian authorities had opened at least 1,938 cases of "discrediting the armed forces," according to OVD-Info, a watchdog group that that tracks the number of arrests in Russia, Radio Free Europe reported.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, prominent Russian lawyer Dmitry Talentov was arrested and faces up to 10 years in prison for spreading "false information" about the Russian army on Facebook, independent news agency Mediazona reported.

According to the news outlet, on April 3 he shared a photo of an elderly man at Moscow's Red Square holding a poster that read: "Ukraine is peace. Russia - sanity, horror, shame, repentance. Putin is hell."

Russian authorities also fined an ex-deputy of the City Duma of Kargopol, in the Arkhangelsk Oblast, for sharing a poster that said: "We are against war" on Russian social media platform VKontakte.

Charges and Fines

On Wednesday, Shies Radik Adnobayev was found guilty of "discrediting" the Russian army and and "demonstrating the symbols of extremist organizations." He was fined 31,000 rubles.

A Moscow court on Tuesday also extended the arrest of Alexei Gorinov, a member of the municipal council of Moscow's Krasnoselsky District, who was arrested in April and charged with discrediting the Russian army. If convicted, he may face a fine or a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Russian politician and ex-candidate for the State Duma Mikhail Lobanov was also detained for 15 days for "discrediting" the country's military on his social media networks. He was ordered to pay a fine of 40,000 rubles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony for Russian team members who won medals at the Winter Paralympic games on March 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Russia has ramped up its crackdown on opposition to Putin’s Ukraine war. Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images