Russian leader Vladimir Putin has recently signed a decree that aims to forbid members of the Russian armed forces from carrying smartphones and other similar devices. The decree is an expansion of another law that was passed last year which forbids members of the military from carrying devices with cameras or those that can connect to the internet.

The decree was signed on the 6th of May and it forbade military personnel from carrying devices that can transmit audio and image files or track location. Violation of the decree is considered to be a major disciplinary offense.

The decree is seen as a preventive move. In recent years, information regarding the location and movement of Russian troops was gathered through posts made online by members of the military. Those pieces of information were particularly vital in covering the fighting in Ukraine, where the Ukrainian government has been battling with separatists since 2014. Russia has denied any involvement in the conflict in Ukraine which has killed more than 13,000 people but there is a wealth of evidence, particularly those gathered from posts by Russian military personnel that there is heavy Russian involvement in the conflict. Posts made by members of the armed forces have also been used by human rights activists to gain proof of hazing performed on young recruits to the Russian military.

Some see the decree as a measure that can be used by the Russian government to cover up the actual situation inside Russia in regard to the pandemic. Russia has now become the epicenter of the coronavirus in Europe, although it has claimed that it has a low death rate. Russia now has almost 200,000 cases of coronavirus, although the government claims that the steep rise in the numbers is a good indication since it means that the ramped-up testing has identified more sick people. Some fear that the restrictions on the soldiers and forbidding them to carry smartphones is a measure that will be used to hide the actual situation in the country.