Russian Government Orders Media Outlets To Delete Stories Referring To 'Invasion' Or 'Assault' On Ukraine

Russia’s media-monitoring agency Roskomnadzor has ordered media outlets to delete reports using the words “assault,” “invasion,” or “declaration of war” to describe Russia’s massive, unprovoked military incursion into neighboring Ukraine.

The agency said on February 26 that it had launched an investigation into the “dissemination of unreliable publicly significant information” against the independent newspaper Novaya gazeta, Ekho Moskvy, InoSMI, Mediazona, New Times, Dozhd, and other media outlets for their coverage of the war in Ukraine.

RFE/RL’s Crimea.Realities was also listed.

The media outlets were accused of publishing “inaccurate information about the shelling of Ukrainian cities and civilian casualties in Ukraine as a result of the actions of the Russian Army.”

If the outlets refuse to delete the reports, Roskomnadzor threatened to block them.

On the third day of Russian military attacks on Ukraine, Russian forces have besieged the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. After a barrage of air strikes on cities and military bases around the country and a huge influx of troops, many people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries. Many have stayed behind to fight.

“RFE/RL will not comply with Roskomnadzor’s demands,” RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly said. “The Kremlin’s threats are a blatant attempt to whitewash the brutal facts about the human cost of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s illegal war against Ukraine.”

“Russians are turning to us more than ever during this critical moment to hear what Ukrainian officials and civilians are saying and to see images of the death and destruction caused by Vladimir Putin that their government is withholding from them,” he added. “We will not succumb to this pressure to deprive them of the truth.”

Roskomnadzor has launched an “administrative probe” against the media outlets that could result in fines up to 5 million rubles ($60,000).

The agency said media could find “reliable information” only from “official Russian information outlets.”

The Russian Defense Ministry on the same day charged that Novaya gazeta and other Russian media were “actively disseminating fake information” purportedly prepared by Ukrainian “nationalists” and the Ukrainian SBU security agency.

Novaya gazeta responded on Telegram by posting a letter the paper sent to the Defense Ministry on February 25 requesting casualty figures that the paper said went unanswered.

“In order for us to publish your information, you have to send it to us,” Novaya gazeta wrote.

Also on February 26, the nongovernmental Internet monitor NetBlocks reported that Twitter “has been restricted” by many providers in Russia.

“The incident comes as the government clashes with social media platforms over policy in relation to the #Ukraine conflict,” NetBlocks wrote on Twitter.

One day earlier, Roskomnadzor warned that access to Facebook would be restricted because the social-media giant had blocked the official accounts of several Russian state-media outlets, including RIA Novosti and the Defense Ministry’s television channel, Zvezda.

The Russian government has sought to tightly control information about the war in Ukraine and to prevent manifestations of antiwar sentiment.

In the first two days after the invasion of Ukraine began, Russian police detained more than 1,800 people in 60 cities for protesting against the war, according to OVD-Info, a nongovernmental organization that monitors political repression.

About 100 Russian journalists, including a few from state media such as TASS and RT, have signed an open letter condemning "the military operation that Russia has started against Ukraine."

More than 1,500 Russian teachers have signed an open petition calling for an end to the war and expressing support for anti-war protests.

Nearly 750,000 people have signed an online Russian petition calling for the public to speak out against the war in Ukraine.

The Russian government has not provided any official information on Russian military losses during the Ukraine campaign.