Vladimir Putin faces legal challenge after breaking Kremlin’s ‘fake news’ law with comments on ‘war’ in Ukraine

A St Petersburg politician has asked prosecutors to investigate Russian President Vladimir Putin for using the word “war” to describe the conflict in Ukraine, accusing the Kremlin chief of breaking his own law.

Mr Putin has for months described his invasion as a “special military operation”.

He signed laws in March that prescribe steep fines and jail terms for discrediting or spreading “deliberately false information” about the armed forces, putting people at risk of prosecution if they call the war by its name.

But he departed from his usual language on Thursday when he told reporters:

“Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war.”

Nikita Yuferev, an opposition councillor in the city where Mr Putin was born, said he knew his legal challenge would go nowhere, but he had filed it to expose the “mendacity” of the system.

“It’s important for me to do this to draw attention to the contradiction and the injustice of these laws that he [Putin] adopts and signs but which he himself doesn’t observe,” he told Reuters.

“I think the more we talk about this, the more people will doubt his honesty, his infallibility, and the less support he will have.”

In his challenge, filed in an open letter, Mr Yuferev asked the prosecutor general and interior minister to “hold [Putin] responsible under the law for spreading fake news about the actions of the Russian army”.

Mr Yuferev, who asked Reuters not to disclose his location, said Mr Putin’s critics who publicly called the war a war have suffered harsh punishments.