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Putin bans Russian armed forces members from carrying electronic devices, gadgets

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Russian television, June 20, 2019. (Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning members of the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and storing information while on duty.

According to the decree, signed on May 6, military personnel may not possess gadgets that can track locations and transmit audio and photo materials.

“The violation of the regulation will be considered a gross disciplinary offense,” the document says.

A similar law adopted last year banned military personnel from carrying gadgets with cameras or that can connect to the Internet.

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In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via the smartphones of members of the Russian military revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.

Some of the photos and videos have been used to prove the presence of Russian military personnel in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting Moscow-backed separatists since April 2014.

Russia has denied a troop presence in the Ukrainian eastern region known as the Donbas, where some 13,200 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict.

Human rights activists have sometimes also been able to obtain from videos and photos on the Internet proof that can be used in cases involving the brutal hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.