Several independent news outlets in Russia shut down Friday after the country's parliament passed a strict ban on distributing "fake" news about the country's invasion of Ukraine. The law brings in a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for spreading information deemed to have discredited the country's armed forces, reports Reuters. Russia has banned use of words like "war," "invasion," and "attack" in reference to the war it is waging after it invaded Ukraine in a Feb. 24 attack, which Moscow is calling a "special military operation," the Washington Post reports. The country insists that its military is doing its best to avoid civilian casualties, though real-time videos still currently available on social media in Russia show the shelling of civilian areas. The law is expected to take effect on Saturday. In other developments:
- Ukraine sinks flagship Black Sea vessel. With Russian forces advancing across the south, trying to cut off Ukraine's access to the Black Sea, Ukraine's defense minister says the country's navy sank its flagship Black Sea vessel to keep it out of Russian hands, the New York Times reports. The frigate was undergoing repairs and couldn't be fixed in time to assist Ukrainian forces, the minister says.
- UN human rights council calls for investigation. The United Nations Human Rights Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to condemn and investigate alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine on Friday, the Guardian reports. Russia and Eritrea were the only two countries to vote against the resolution. Another 13 members abstained.
- UK PM calls for emergency Security Council meeting. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to address Russia's attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, the AP reports. Authorities said Friday that Russian forces had seized the plant, but no radiation was released in a fire apparently caused by Russian shelling.
- Russian access to foreign news blocked. The BBC reports that access to its services and those of other outlets, including Radio Liberty and Voice of America, has been blocked as part of Moscow's crackdown on the media. Independent Russian outlet TV Rain showed staff walking off set in its final broadcast before it shut down on Thursday.
- Putin issues warning to Russia's neighbors. Vladimir Putin warned Russia's neighbors Friday that they shouldn't "escalate tensions" with moves including tightening sanctions, reports Reuters. The Russian leader said the country has no "bad intentions" toward its neighbors and "all our actions, if they arise, they always arise exclusively in response to some unfriendly actions, actions against the Russian Federation."
- Mayor pleads for NATO to send troops. The mayor of the southern city of Mariupol, which has been heavily bombarded by Russian forces for days, is pleading for NATO to send troops or at least introduce a no-fly zone. "There is no way to stop Putin from killing our civilians from the sky until NATO wakes up and understands that it's not a regional conflict—it's a war against democracy, against freedom," Sergei Orlov tells the BBC. In Chernihiv, northern Ukraine, authorities say the death toll from Russian shelling Thursday has risen to 47.
(In talks Thursday, negotiators agreed to set up humanitarian corridors for refugees