As Russia assaults Ukraine, the government tightens its grip on information about the war

As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, it’s increasingly using harsh tactics to control information about the war at home. Russia has banned Facebook, while also passing a law that could jail journalists and others for promulgating "fake news" about the military. This as oil bans against Russia are being considered internationally. Ryan Chilcote joins Judy Woodruff from Moscow to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now let's turn to Moscow, where special correspondent Ryan Chilcote has been reporting for us.

    Hello, Ryan.

    So, we know that now Russia has banned Facebook and Twitter. What does that mean for the Russian people?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Well, you can still, obviously, access Facebook and Twitter if you use a VPN, and many Russian knows how to use VPNs, but it just makes it difficult.

    And I guess it just means more Russians will be accessing them. Russia has its own social media. There are some Russians, though, that would prefer to use or do prefer to use Facebook and Twitter, because they're concerned about their personal data.

    So, I mean, we're just getting a fragmentation of the social media world. And Russians are going to be seeing more information that the Russian government is comfortable with them seeing and less of the information that the U.S. is comfortable with people seeing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And VPN, of course, being a secure — a more secure connection.

    Ryan, the Russians are also now just passing today a 15-year sentence for anyone who intentionally spreads what they say is fake news about the military. What are the repercussions of that?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Well, everyone's very concerned. All journalists are very concerned about this.

    Obviously, the idea of spending 15 years in prison is very daunting. And many Russian journalists and international journalists — it applies to both — are very concerned about the Russian government being the arbiter of truth and deciding what qualifies as fake news when it comes to the war in Ukraine.

    I can tell you, I have spoken with a number of Russian and international journalists, and they are taking this very seriously. Many have left the country, at least for a couple of weeks, a month. They're getting out. They want to see how this plays out. Is it going to be applied? Is anyone going to be prosecuted?

    We have heard some Russian politicians say that it could be used retroactively to go after people, in the government's eyes, that are mischaracterizing or misportraying what's going on in Ukraine. So it's a huge concern amongst journalists here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And separate issue, Ryan, I know you follow the energy sector closely. We're learning the White House is taking a serious look at banning the importation of Russian oil.

    What would that mean for the United States and our economy?

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Well, ultimately, it would mean that the oil price would rise and the price at the pump would likely rise.

    Look, the United States is a huge oil producer, the world's largest, produces a lot of oil now on the back of shale oil. Russia only provides about 8 percent in terms of all crude products of the imports into the U.S. behind Canada and Mexico.

    But the issue is that, if the U.S. bans these imports, the expectation is for example, the European Union could too. So you have less supply higher prices. And the real concern, I think, for the Biden administration might be that that doesn't mean it would hurt the Russian economy necessarily, because the Russians might just be able to sell that oil that they're selling into the United States elsewhere — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, movement on so many fronts.

    And watching it all from Moscow, Ryan Chilcote, thank you very much.

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