A timeline of restrictive laws that authorities have used to crack down on dissent in Putin's Russia

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FILE - A police officer stands inside a police bus with detained demonstrators during an antiwar protest near Red Square in Moscow, on Sept. 24, 2022. Russian authorities have adopted a slew of laws restricting fundamental human rights, including freedom of speech and assembly, as well as the rights of minorities and religious groups. (AP Photo, File)

TALLINN – As part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's ever-increasing clampdown on dissent, authorities in recent years have adopted a slew of laws restricting fundamental human rights, including freedom of speech and assembly, as well as the rights of minorities and religious groups.

These laws have taken aim at “foreign agents” allegedly seeking to exert influence on Russia, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and organizations spreading information critical of the Kremlin or contrary to official narratives, especially regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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They have helped the Kremlin to maintain tight control over the country’s political system, and as a result, Putin is expected to extend his rule virtually unchallenged in a presidential election this month.

Human rights advocates worry that more repressions are ahead.

Here’s a look at some of the restrictive laws passed in Russia:

July 2012 — Russian authorities adopted a law that allows them to label nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations as “foreign agents,” if they receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined “political activity.” The designation required the organizations to submit detailed reports on their finances to authorities and carried strong negative connotations, which often scared away their sponsors, partners and advertisers.

In the years that followed, the label was also applied to media outlets and individuals, and it has been used primarily to target Kremlin critics, independent news outlets and rights groups. There are currently more than 770 NGOs, news outlets and individuals in the registry of “foreign agents," and the list is regularly updated with new additions.

June 2013 — Russia adopted a law that stigmatizes gay people and bans giving children any information about homosexuality. The law — which banned “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors — resulted in restrictions on books, movies and media, and fueled attacks on LGBTQ+ activists.

December 2013 — Putin signed a law allowing media regulator Roskomnadzor to block websites disseminating calls for protests and other allegedly extremist content with just an order from the Russian Prosecutor General's office, rather than a court. Scores of websites were blocked in the years that followed, including many critical news outlets, opposition pages and sites run by rights groups.

May 2015 — A law was adopted prohibiting “undesirable organizations” from operating in Russia, with criminal penalties ranging from large fines to eight years in prison. The designation applies to foreign organizations that authorities viewed as threatening Russia's “constitutional order, defense capability or security,” but in reality it has been used to shut down foreign and Russian NGOs, opposition groups and critical news outlets, including such popular ones as the Dozhd TV channel and the Meduza news site.

As of February 2024, a total of 142 groups were outlawed as “undesirable organizations.”

July 2016 — The Kremlin adopted a law that significantly expanded the powers of law enforcement agencies, allowing surveillance and collection of data about citizens under the pretext of fighting terrorism and extremism.

The law introduced a ban on the use of uncertified encryption tools, obliged telecom operators to store calls and messages for three years, and sharply tightened the conduct of religious missionary activities. It has been heavily criticized by freedom of speech advocates.

May 2019 — Russia adopted a so-called sovereign internet law, designed to tighten control of internet infrastructure in the country in order to be able to cut off the internet in the country from the rest of the world. Under the law, telecom operators are required to install equipment that allows the authorities to block content and reroute traffic. IT experts have questioned whether it would be possible to implement in full, but warned that it may cause disruption.

March 2022 — Just over a week after Russian troops rolled into Ukraine, authorities adopted legislation outlawing disparaging the Russian military or spreading “false information” about the invasion, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The law was almost immediately used against those speaking out against the war, independent media and opposition activists.

Dozens of Russian independent media outlets were banned as a result, while others announced that they were halting any reporting related to Ukraine or moved their editorial offices abroad. Thousands of Russians have been arrested at antiwar protests, and dozens have faced criminal charges under the law. Kremlin critics both at home and abroad were slapped with long prison terms.

December 2022 — Russian authorities expanded their crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community and adopted a law that prohibits any activities seen as promoting LGBTQ+ rights in another blow to the embattled community.

July 2023 — Russia outlawed gender-affirming care, as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records. Senior lawmaker Pyotr Tolstoy, who was among the sponsors of the bill, has said it was intended to “protect Russia with its cultural and family values and traditions and to stop the infiltration of the Western anti-family ideology.”

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