A new law that allows the Russian government to block websites without any trial comes into effect today. The regime claims the law, which was rushed through parliament in July, will only be used against sites that show hard-core pornography, threaten children or encourage drug use or suicide. But given Putin's track record, the obvious fear is it will be used to stifle political dissent.
To make matters worse, the rules comes into effect just as Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously passed a new treason bill which imposes draconian penalties for any activities deemed to harm "foreign security". The breadth of definition for this offence could well mean that anyone who shares information with foreign NGOs such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, or who appeals to the European court of human rights, could face years in prison.
Taken with a slew of repressive measures in recent months – not least imposing crushing fines for unauthorised protests, the brazen jailing of opponents and judicial persecution of high-profile critics, these moves are the latest worrying signs of citizens' voices being silenced, and all forms of dissent being crushed.
The Putin regime knows all too well that in today's world, silencing opposition is not just a matter of controlling the streets and stuffing ballot boxes (although it does a good job of that too). It's about closing channels to the outside world – which is why today's news may be the greatest cause of concern yet.
Sources: BBC, Avaaz, France 24