Disinfo: Western countries punish unsanctioned rallies with years in prison


Citizens in Western countries face harsh penalties for organising or taking part in unsanctioned protests. France punishes participation in such protests with up to six months in prison, or up to one year for organising them. In Sweden, organisers get up to four years in prison, other participants face up to two years. In Finland, the maximum prison term is three years. New Zealand punishes illegal assembly with up one year in prison and mass disturbances with up to two years. In the United Kingdom, which constantly tells Russia how it must act, mass disturbances involving twelve or more people can result in prison terms of up to 10 years.

Those who accuse Russian law enforcement of undue violence against protesters should keep the above in mind.


Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative portraying Russia as more democratic than Western states.

The claim deliberately confounds, on the one hand, legal restrictions on violent public behaviour in some Western states and, on the other, the quasi-legal concept of "unsanctioned rally" which the Russian state routinely invokes as an excuse to crack down on peaceful protests. The arbitrary use of this provision runs contrary to international judicial precedent (see pp. 6-18), reports and opinions issued by international bodies (e.g. UN Human Rights Council pp. 7-13; Venice Commission pp. 18-26; OSCE pp. 15-21), and Russia's own constitution (Art. 31).

None of the countries mentioned in the claim have legislation stipulating prison time for peaceful protesters. In France, a term of up to six months can only be given to repeat violent offenders who ignore a prohibition to attend public demonstrations; in Sweden, four years is the maximum term for individuals found "demonstrating intent to use concerted violence against a public authority [...] and do not disperse at the command of a public authority" (Swedish Criminal Code, Chapter 16, Section 1, emphasis added); in Finland, only those found guilty of "public incitement to an offence" face up to two years in prison (Finnish Criminal Code, Chapter 17, Section 1), not three; in New Zealand, two years' imprisonment is the maximum sentence given specifically to rioters, meaning those who "acting together, are using violence against persons or property to the alarm of persons in the neighbourhood of that group" (Crimes Act 1961, Section 87); in the UK, a 10-year prison sentence is reserved for those convicted of rioting, and a five-year term for perpetrators of violent disorders (Public Order Act 1986, Sections 1 and 2).


  • Reported in: Issue 229
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 28/01/2021
  • Outlet language(s) Russian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: New Zealand, UK, France, Sweden, Finland, Russia
  • Keywords: Western values, Russian superiority, Protest
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Disinfo: US citizens, like the citizens of North Korea, have no influence on the country's decision making

There is no democracy in the United States of America. The only difference between the United States and any of the most oppressive regimes in the world is that thanks to its theft of the whole world, it has become richer, and thus the contradictions in American society until recently remained hidden to the extent that the main political news on television was about a cat that is afraid of getting off the tree, and the political programmes of the rival presidential candidates were almost carbon copy. Therefore, there was no need for the army to control the citizens. The propaganda and the absence of alternative media (such as RT) were sufficient. Moreover, the citizens of the United States of America have the same influence over decision making as the citizens of North Korea.


This is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative, which seeks to discredit the United States and liberal democracies by claiming that liberal societies are totalitarian systems and that liberal democracies, like 20th-century totalitarian dictatorships, practice repression against the population.

Although the US and other Western democracies today face multiple and serious domestic and foreign threats, it is not true that liberal democracies are obsolete, have collapsed or are being replaced with dictatorships. Reports of the death of liberal democracy have been greatly exaggerated. Moreover, the article’s attempt to equate the West’s liberal societies to totalitarian regimes is an obvious falsification of reality. According to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, which is based on a large number of objective criteria, places the US is in 45th place out of 180 countries, whereas North Korea is in the last 180th rank.

Disinfo: Lithuania is one of the least peaceful countries in Europe

Lithuania is one of the least peaceful countries in Europe according to the “Global Peace Index”. Lithuania is on 36th position.


A recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative portraying Lithuania as an aggressive, unfriendly and unpeaceful country.

The message is highly manipulative. The “Global Peace Index 2020” ranked 163 countries, putting Lithuania on 36th position, not far from its neighbours - Latvia (34th position), Estonia (30th position), and Poland (29th position). The infographic presented in the article does not include Russia, which is, for comparison, on 154th position according to the “Global Peace Index 2020”.

Disinfo: Countries like Ukraine are neither prosperous nor democratic because they submit to the US influence

The countries that give the US the keys to controlling it, like Ukraine, achieve neither prosperity nor democracy.


A recurring pro-Kremlin narrative about Ukraine, Ukrainian statehood, and the US presence in Europe.

According to the World Bank, economic growth in Ukraine was solid at 3.2% in 2019, led by a good agricultural harvest and sectors dependent on domestic consumption. This was despite, or maybe because of, the fact that both imports from, and exports to, Russia have decreased markedly since 2013.