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Russian MPs Approve Bills Restricting Online Criticism of Kremlin

FILE - Russian lawmakers are seen during a vote at the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, in Moscow, Russia, May 8, 2018.

The lower house of Russia’s parliament has passed two bills that restrict online criticism of the government and authorizes the imposition of jail sentences or fines on those who publish erroneous information about the authorities.

The State Duma passed the measures Thursday and they are expected to be approved quickly in the upper chamber, after which they would be presented to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law.

The laws call for people found guilty of publishing "indecent" material that demonstrates "disrespect for society, the state [and] state symbols of the Russian Federation" and government officials to be penalized. Repeat offenders could be sentenced to up to 15 days in jail.

Many opponents of the legislation view it as part of a broader Kremlin effort to suppress criticism and tighten control.

Television, radio and print organizations are already subject to government retribution for disseminating false information. The legislation approved by the lower chamber targets individuals and online media.