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Handcuffed for her appearance in court, this Russian journalist was yesterday facing prison for revealing the horrors of the siege of Mariupol.
Maria Ponomarenko, who works for RushNews, was accused of spreading ‘fake news’ about civilian deaths in the Ukrainian port city.
Mrs Ponomarenko will remain in custody until she next appears in court tomorrow, according to messages shared on encrypted app Telegram.
Last month, Russia’s parliament passed a law meaning anyone deemed to have intentionally spread ‘fake’ news about the military operation can be jailed for up to 15 years.
Police in St. Pete have arrested journalist Maria Ponomarenko, pictured in handcuffs, for spreading ‘fake’ news when reporting on civilian deaths during the siege of Mariupol. She risks being sent to prison for up to 15 years due to a new law which bans reporting in Russia
It came as Putin yesterday claimed the Kremlin’s spy agency had foiled what he described as a ‘Western’ plot to kill prominent Russian journalist Vladimir Solovyov.
He said the Federal Security Service had halted the alleged plan – and used the unverified information to claim the West was now trying to target household names in the country.
However six Russian men were later arrested and described as being part of a ‘neo-Nazi’ group acting on behalf of Ukraine’s security services.
‘This morning, the Federal Security Service stopped the activities of a terrorist group that planned to attack and kill one famous Russian TV journalist,’ Putin said.
‘They have moved to terror – to preparing the murder of our journalists.’
And claiming the US may have been involved, which was denied, he added: ‘We know by name the curators of Western secret services, primarily, of course, from the CIA, who work with the security agencies of Ukraine.’
Solvyov, who has prime-time shows on Russian TV, has been sanctioned by the EU as a propagandist and had villas seized by Italian police.
And in a more surprising target for Russia’s wrath, chess website Chess.com has been banned by the Russian media regulator.
In a statement, Chess.com, which has more than 50 million members around the world, expressed its shock. It noted however, that, since the invasion, sites such as Facebook, Twitter and BBC News have all been banned.
‘Yesterday, Chess.com was banned by the Russian government agency Roskomnadzor, responsible for censorship within Russia – a busy occupation these days,’ a spokesman said.
‘According to Roskomnadzor, their goal is to block two webpages: “On The Invasion of Ukraine” which outlines our policy and actions regarding the war on Ukraine and addresses FAQ and “Ukrainian Chess Players In Times Of War” which is a piece interviewing Ukrainian chess players on their circumstances and views during the early days of the war.’
Chess.com was banned by the Russian government agency Roskomnadzor, joining Facebook, Twitter and the BBC on a list of banned sites
The spokesman added that, as these single pages could not be banned, the regulator had instead banned the entire site from Russia. They called on Russians wishing to play chess to continue if they could bypass Russia’s internet laws.
‘We reaffirm our condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the Russian government’s war of aggression against Ukraine and will continue to publish content to that effect.’
The statement added: ‘We will continue to welcome Chess.com members from Russia who defy the government’s ban and play on Chess.com.’
Chess.com had previously banned Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin, who has publicly supported the invasion, from playing games on the site.
Writing online about Russia’s decision to ban Chess.com, he said: ‘Once again we are witness to a situation where Western platforms lose their Russian public because of their own phobia of Russia.’
Mr Karjakin was last month banned from chess competition for six months by the International Chess Federation for his support of Russia’s invasion.