Crimea Realities chief says ban won’t stop website

Volodymyr Prytula, the chief of RFE/RL’s news website Krym.Realii (Crimea.Realities), says that neither the website’s editors nor RFE/RL were warned of claims or allegations against the site before Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor began to block access to it last night. Denial of access to the website has been reported in many cities in Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea.

Some observers are expressing concern that blocking Krym.Realii may be the first step towards banning RFE/RL in its entirety in Russia.

“This is an aggressive act that uses the outrageous pretext of extremism to censor RFE/RL and prevent audiences in Russia and Crimea from learning the truth about the annexation,” RFE/RL Editor in Chief Nenad Pejic said in a statement on May 12. “We condemn it as an attack on RFE/RL’s operations and the public’s fundamental right to freely access information,” he added.

Crimea’s Moscow-appointed, de facto Prosecutor-General Natalia Poklonskaya posted a statement on May 12 saying that Russia’s Internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, had launched measures to block and shut down the site. Her office had earlier issued a call for the website’s closure on April 19, claiming it seeks to “discredit the Russian Federation, incites inter-ethnic hatred and promotes extremism.” A contributor to the website was arrested that day, drawing a sharp rebuke from U.S. Embassy in Kyiv spokesman Jonathan Lalley, who called it an example “of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices in Russia and Russia-occupied Crimea.”

According to Roskomnadzor’s website, decisions to block access to Krym.Realii were adopted in September 2015 in connection with Russia’s law on extremism; it is unclear why these decisions are being implemented now.

Krym.Realii is one of the last remaining sources for independent reporting about Russia-annexed Crimea. It is published in Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar languages, and has logged an average of 2.2 million visits monthly to its website over the past 12-month period.

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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the BBG.

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