Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) announced yesterday that it has blocked access to 13 virtual communities of Ukrainian organizations on Vkontakte.ru (also known as VK.com), the leading Russian-language social network.
“These communities promoted the activity of Ukrainian nationalist groups, including open calls for the Russian people to conduct terrorist activity and participate in unauthorized mass demonstrations in Moscow” and elsewhere in Russia, the regulator stated.
Alleged address to ghost terrorist
The regulator refers, in particular, to an alleged message by Ukrainian nationalist leader Dmitry Yarosh to Russia’s most wanted terrorist Doku Umarov, a leader of the anti-Russian Chechen rebellion.
In an address posted on its Vkontakte page, Yarosh’s movement “Right Sector” pointed out that “many Ukrainians with arms in the hands” supported Chechen militants in their fight against Russians and “it is time to support Ukraine now.”
The outrageous message called on the radical islamist leader “to activate his fight” and “take a unique chance to win” over Russia.
Later on, a Right Sector representative claimed that the organization had nothing to do with the posting and that one of their administrator’s accounts had been hacked.
Some observers even expressed doubts about whether Umarov, who last appeared alive in an Internet video posted in summer 2013, was still alive.
Tightening web control
The Right Sector’s webpages were nevertheless included in Roskomnadzor’s online banned web content register, following instructions from Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office, according to a procedure that entered into force on Feb. 1 this year.
Roskomnadzor recently blocked several web resources based on this new procedure, the latest example coming in mid-February with the closing of access to alleged “sites of terrorist organizations” hosted by Google’s Blogspot.
The banned web content register was created in November 2012. It contains thousands of entries with child pornography, promotion of drug use and other harmful content aimed at minors. The register has been criticized for its lack of transparency and inefficiency in pinning down elusive perpetrators that can easily resurface by changing IP addresses.
Politically motivated access-blocking has also been criticized by Russian activists.
In some instances, however, Roskomnadzor did not block websites in the absence of a judge’s ruling, as East-West Digital News noted recently.