war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia imposes jail or fines for correct maps of Ukraine claiming they 'violate its territorial integrity'

Halya Coynash
Russia’s State Duma has adopted a bill which envisages jail for up to 15 days or massive fines (up to one million roubles) for maps which correctly show Crimea or other occupied Ukrainian territory as part of Ukraine



Russia’s State Duma has adopted a bill which envisages jail for up to 15 days or massive fines (up to one million roubles) for maps which correctly show Crimea or other occupied Ukrainian territory as part of Ukraine.

Although the bill’s authors (Vasily Piskarev, head of the Duma’s committee on security and two deputy heads Ernest Valeyev and Anatoly Vyborny openly admit that the aim of their ‘initiative’ is to ensure that the results of Russia’s aggression are presented as ‘Russian territory’, the pretext and terminology used are, of course, different. The package of bills will extend Russia’s already huge list of supposedly ‘extremist materials’. Once the bills come into force, maps that do not depict Crimea or the Kuril Islands (which Japan considers its territory) as ‘Russian territory’ will be classified as ‘extremist material’. In government-controlled reports on the new package of bill, material that reflects internationally recognized borders is described as “maps or images disputing the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation’.  Such maps or images are now claimed to be ‘extremist’ with individuals convicted of this facing a fine of from one to three thousand roubles or a jail term (‘administrative arrest’) of up to 15 days.  Although the bill will certainly be used to persecute individuals for material posted on social media, etc., the real target is likely to be legal entities (media, publishers, etc).  They would face devastating fines of up to one million roubles.

The relevant package of legislative initiatives was passed in its first reading on 20 December 2022, with the government’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta calling the amendments “on the defence of the country’s territorial integrity’ and claiming it to be imposing liability for “the deliberate distortion of Russia’s borders.”  The package was passed in its second and third readings on 25 May 2023.

The amendments had seemingly been drawn up at the request of Duma speaker Viacheslav Volodin. Piskarev claimed that such material (with the map in accordance with internationally recognized borders) had become more common recently and in all seriousness claimed it to be “part of the hybrid war launched by the West against Russia.”

Neither he, nor any other representatives of the current Russian regime, mention the Russian soldiers, tanks, bombs and other tools of invasion used to seize even more Ukrainian territory.  Valeyev did, however, mention that liability would not be incurred by the authors or publishers of textbooks “which appeared before the extension of the country’s territory”. 

Russia’s ongoing territorial aggression is only one of the reasons for stipulating limits on liability.  The other, albeit related, is that there are no clearly defined borders.  Back on 30 September, after fake ‘referendums’ at gunpoint, Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that the Donetsk; Luhansk; Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts ‘had become parts of the Russian Federation.  Not one of those oblasts is fully under Russian occupation, and some parts were liberated by Ukraine’s Armed Forces after this alleged annexation.  It is possible that the brutality of Russia’s recent bombing and shelling of Kherson and outlying areas is because the liberation of Kherson on 11 November 2022, and the scenes of joy as Ukrainians came out to greet their liberators, were viewed by the international community and clearly gave the lie to Russia’s claim of near 100% support for its annexation of the areas under its armed occupation.

Russia has had longer to try to rewrite the history internally as to its invasion and annexation of Crimea, and to use punitive fines against Google, Apple, etc. to force them to echo Russian lies.  It is much less sure of its territorial position with respect to other occupied Ukrainian territory.  If the aggressor state is not driven out, however, it is only a matter of time before the same measures are applied on any newly invaded territory.  In Joseph Stalin’s USSR, children swiftly learned not to ask questions when the photos of the country’s top figures on their classroom walls suddenly changed overnight.  The current regime is seeking to achieve something similar with respect to its violent seizure of other parts of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

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