The Moscow Times
May 28 2015
Legal amendments introduced Thursday that classify as state secrets any losses sustained during peacetime special operations are further confirmation of Russia's direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict, legal and military experts told The Moscow Times. The amendments, signed by President Vladimir Putin, make "information disclosing the loss of personnel … during special operations in peacetime" a classified state secret.
Putin has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Asked to explain Putin's move Thursday, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov had no immediate comment, Reuters reported. Military servicemen who are killed, injured or go missing can be considered military losses, meaning their relatives will be forced to keep information about their deaths a secret, lawyers said Thursday. "Even a death notification sent to parents or other relatives [of a soldier] can be considered a secret under this decree," Ivan Pavlov, a leading lawyer in the field of government transparency who has successfully defended treason suspects, told The Moscow Times.
The federal list of what constitutes a state secret can be accessed publicly, but government agencies also compile their own lists that are themselves usually classified. Moreover, what the Defense Ministry classifies as a secret could be considered open information by the Interior Ministry, Pavlov said. "If a citizen, for instance a journalist, obtains information that is considered a state secret, they face prison. The main consequence of this law is that it will basically be impossible to obtain information."