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OVD-Info co-founder Grigory Okhotin says the move by the Russian regulator Roskomnadzor to designate the human rights monitor as a "foreign agent" was part of a "pressure campaign against independent organizations and media."

Russia’s communications regulator has blocked the website of OVD-Info, a prominent human rights monitor that tracks political persecution and anti-Kremlin protests, the group said on December 25.

OVD-Info, which also provides support to victims of political persecution, said Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor had blocked its website earlier this week.

"At the moment, we have not received a notice and do not know the reason for being blocked," the group said on Twitter.

The Interfax news agency said the ruling on restricting access to the site was issued by a court in the Moscow region on December 20.

Russia declared the OVD-Info group a "foreign agent" in September, in a move that critics say is designed to stifle dissent.

OVD-Info co-founder Grigory Okhotin had blasted the move as being part of “the pressure campaign against independent organizations and media.”

Russia’s so-called foreign agent legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly. It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance, and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.

Human Rights Watch has condemned Russia’s “foreign agent” laws, calling them “another repressive tool the government can use to harass independent groups.”

Russian authorities have unleashed a sweeping crackdown against opposition activists as well as independent media and rights groups in recent months.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

A court in Moscow said on December 24 that it was fining Alphabet's Google 7.2 billion rubles ($98 million) for what it said was a repeated failure to delete content Russia deems illegal, the first revenue-based fine in this kind of case in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused social media platforms and other tech giants of flouting the country's Internet laws, including a push to force foreign firms to open offices in Russia and store Russians' personal data on its territory.

Many critics say the move is an attempt by Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the Internet and quell dissent.

Social media companies have already been fined hundreds of millions of rubles for content violations.

However the fines that Meta, Twitter, Google and other foreign tech giants received stretched into the tens of millions of rubles, not billions.

The Interfax news agency reported that the fine was calculated as a percentage of Google's annual earnings.

Google said it would study the court documents and then decide on its next steps.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and TASS

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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