Kremlin Blocks Four Opposition Websites As Ukraine Crisis Brews

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Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny looks out from a glass-walled cage during a court session in Kirov, July 19, 2013. Russia unexpectedly freed opposition leader Alexei Navalny on bail on Friday, bending to the will of thousands of protesters who denounced his five-year jail sentence as a crude attempt by President Vladimir Putin to silence him.

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is continuing to brew, Russia is tightening its grip on opposition outlets inside its borders.

The Russian Attorney General’s Office requested Russia’s media regulatory body, Roskomnadzor, add four opposition websites to its list of blocked websites. The websites are opposition news sites Kasparov.ru, Grani.ru, EJ.ru and the opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s personal blog.

The websites now read “Website blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General” and link to a Roskomnadzor page that says the sites “contain calls to illegal activity and participation in mass events that are conducted contrary to the established order,” according to Global Voices.

Navanly’s blog was blocked because Navanly is on house arrest in an embezzlement case and not supposed to be communicating. Navanly says the embezzlement charge was orchestrated by the Kremlin.

Garry Kasparov, founder of Kasparov.ru and better known as one of the greatest chess players of all time, wrote on his Facebook page:

“Putin has taken the next big step, both in his crackdown on Russian liberty and, possibly, the next phase of his preparations for war on Ukraine. Several of the biggest opposition news sites have been blocked inside of Russia, including the kasparov.ru news service and the blog of Alexei Navalny. Echo of Moscow, Grani, and EJ are also now unreachable from inside Russia. The last source of truth available in Putin's police state is going dark.”

Kasparov is an outspoken critic of Putin who regularly attacks the Russian president (and a number of other politicians) on social media. After his career as a number-one ranked chess grandmaster, Kasparov became an opposition political leader in Russia. He is currently chairman of the Human Rights Foundation.

According to Reuters, the legality of the censorship is rooted in a law that allows prosecutors to make providers block sites that they determined have made calls for participation, protests and demonstrations planned without the OK from the government. President Vladimir Putin signed the law and it went into effect Feb. 1.

The blockages haven’t taken full effect across ISPs yet. EJ.ru has issued statements on its website for those who can still access it. For now, it appears grani.ru is the only site blocked in the U.S. You can type in a URL to see if it is blocked on the Roskomnadzor website, here.

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