MOSCOW, March 15 (Reuters) - A Russian opposition lawmaker said he did not submit a bill that apparently bore his signature and which proposed fines and jail terms for anti-Russian “propaganda” in relation to the crisis in Ukraine.
Some journalists say President Vladimir Putin has been tightening his control over independent news outlets by putting Kremlin-backed editors in charge. The Kremlin, however, denies there is any campaign to silence critical media.
A draft of the bill was submitted to the Duma - Russia’s lower house of parliament - on Friday, bearing the signature of lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev. But Ponomarev said he was not even in Moscow at the time and is in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, running a mayoral election campaign.
“The law on Russophobia - (it’s a) provocation,” Ponomarev said on Twitter on Saturday. “I did not submit it and I don’t know what’s going on. I woke up in shock, I am trying to figure it out.”
How the law was submitted to the Duma was unclear. No one at the Duma was available to comment on Saturday.
The draft of the bill stipulates a fine of up to 2,000 roubles ($55) for individuals and up to 4,000 roubles for legal entities, and up to 15 days in jail, for dissemination of anti-Russian sentiment.
It says it was “dictated by the escalation of a Russophobic sentiment in the media in connection with the latest events in neighbouring Ukraine”.
“By propaganda of Russophobia this law means a dissemination in the media, as well as through public rallies, meetings, or specific marketing tools, images, video and audio, of inaccurate negative information aimed at forming a negative attitude towards Russia, or towards Russians, and also towards the Russian language, culture and statehood,” the draft says.
Ponomarev, a member of the Just Russia party who attended anti-government mass protests in the winter of 2011-2012, said the news of the law came in late on Friday through the state-controlled Itar-Tass and RIA Novosti agencies.
“On Monday, if this law was really submitted in my name, it will be recalled,” he said on Saturday. ($1 = 36.6510 Russian roubles) (Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Pravin Char)