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Wikipedia fights Russian order to suppress information about war in Ukraine

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The Wikimedia Foundation, owner of Wikipedia, has filed an appeal against a Moscow court order demanding that it remove information related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, arguing that people have the right to know the facts of the war.

A Moscow court has fined the Wikimedia Foundation 5 million rubles ($88,000) for refusing to remove what it called disinformation from Russian-language Wikipedia articles about the war, including “The Russian invasion of Ukraine”, “War crimes during the Russian invasion of Ukraine”. and “Massacre at Bucha”.

“This decision implies that well-researched and verified information on Wikipedia that is inconsistent with Russian government accounts constitutes disinformation,” Stephen LaPorte, associate general counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement.

Wikipedia, which says it offers “the second draft of the story”, is one of the few verified Russian-language sources of information for Russians after the media crackdown in Moscow.

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“The government is targeting information vital to people’s lives in times of crisis,” LaPorte said. “We urge the court to reconsider in favor of everyone’s rights to access to knowledge and freedom of expression.”

The Moscow court argued that what it called disinformation on Wikipedia posed a risk to public order in Russia and that the foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, California, operated in Russia.

The foundation was sued under a law for failing to remove prohibited information. The case was brought by Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor, which did not immediately respond to a Wikipedia request for comment.

The Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower and Saint Basil's Cathedral are seen in Moscow, Russia, March 15, 2022.

The Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower and Saint Basil’s Cathedral are seen in Moscow, Russia, March 15, 2022.
(Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina/File)

Wikipedia’s appeal, which was filed June 6 with details released on Monday, argues that the removal of information is a violation of human rights. He said Russia had no jurisdiction over the Wikimedia Foundation, which was available worldwide in over 300 languages.

Wikipedia entries are written and edited by volunteers.

Accounts of the war, Europe’s biggest ground invasion since World War II, vary widely – and have become highly politicized with journalists in Moscow and the West routinely accused of distorting the war.

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Ukraine says it is the victim of an unprovoked imperial-style land grab by Russia and will fight to the bitter end to reclaim territory occupied by Russian forces. Kyiv has repeatedly asked the West for additional help to fight Russia.

President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials do not use the words “war” or “invasion”. They made it a “special military operation” aimed at preventing the persecution of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

Putin also says the conflict is a turning point in Russian history: a revolt by Moscow against the United States, which he says has humiliated Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and pushed to expand the NATO military alliance.

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Ukraine and its Western supporters deny Moscow’s claims that Russian speakers have been persecuted. Kyiv says Russian forces have committed war crimes including murder, torture and rape in places like Bucha.

Russia says the alleged war crimes evidence consists of carefully constructed forgeries and that Ukraine and its Western backers have been spreading misinformation about Russian forces.

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Post expires at 11:37pm on Friday June 24th, 2022