MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) on Tuesday voted for amendments to the Criminal Code envisaging a maximum prison term of five years for spreading gross fakes that entail dire effects.
Spreading socially significant falsehoods that have entailed health consequences will be punishable with 700,000 rubles to 1,500,000 rubles ($9,000-$18,000) or an 18-month wage, or 12 months of correctional works, or compulsory works, or three years in prison.
If the fakes caused a negligent death or other dire effects, the maximum fine will be up to 2,000,000 ($25,000) or a three-year wage or correctional works of up to two years or compulsory works or an imprisonment of up to five years.
The corresponding amendments were made when the State Duma (lower house) considered in the second reading a bill on tighter criminal punishment for violation of sanitary and epidemiological rules. The bill was adopted by the State Duma in the second and third readings. It also establishes a maximum prison term of seven years for violating quarantine rules that resulted in the death of two or more persons.
The chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building, Andrei Klishas, said the problem of fakes on the Internet exacerbated when the coronavirus epidemic broke out.
"The available leverage is unable to have the full restricting effects. There have been cases of intentional spread of fakes about the coronavirus and measures being taken by the authorities to resist its proliferation," Klishas said.
In particular, he mentioned groundless rumors about Moscow being sealed off for quarantine, the spraying of disinfectants, alleged 1,600 coronavirus-related deaths in Russia, greater risks of being infected with the coronavirus after flu vaccination and others.
"This pandemic in people’s minds must be stopped. World Health Organization officials have called it infodemic. Tighter punishment for fake news is a timely and necessary measure," Klishas stated.
As of March 31, 2,337 coronavirus cases are registered in Russia; 121 patients have recovered. Most of those infected are in Moscow (1,613). According to the federal anti-coronavirus center, 17 have died. The Russian government set up an Internet hotline to keep the public informed about the coronavirus situation.