The Kremlin has launched a campaign to crack down on Russians’ access to critical western media, according to a former employee of the country’s main state-run news agency.
The RIA-Novosti news agency last weekend reportedly ordered the employee to avoid stories critical of the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, and his United Russia party ahead of the elections.
Following the order, the employee, Grigory Okhotin, resigned his post at Inosmi, a website which translates articles from foreign press sources and is run by the news agency.
“They told me rather clearly not to translate harsh stories about Putin or United Russia,” Okhotin said.
The Kremlin has become increasingly nervous about public support as it prepares for a parliamentary vote on Sunday and presidential elections in the spring. Polls show a steady decrease in support for United Russia, as well as for Putin, who is expected to return to the presidency after serving four years as premier.
Most Russians get their news from state-run TV, which is curated by Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s ideologist and a Putin ally. But with internet use skyrocketing, many Russians are turning to the web as an independent source of news.
Livejournal, Russia’s main blogging platform and a hotbed of opposition thought, came under DDoS [distributed denial of service] attack , an action many bloggers linked to Sunday’s vote.