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Popular Azerbaijani Website Shuts Down


* Correction appended

BAKU -- Azerbaijan's most popular Russian-language news source,, has been shut down.

The reason for the closure is unclear, but the Azerbaijani government has recently boosted its control over independent media.

The website had some 25,000 users per day. It was established by a pro-government group, but in recent years had appeared to become increasingly independent.

The site was inaccessible and the project's owner and editor in chief, Elnur Baimov, confirmed the closure to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service but declined to give details. He suggested a public statement would be forthcoming.

Its web editor, Yaroslav Osintsev, said employees were informed on the afternoon of February 19 that the project was shut down and they should go home. He added that management provided no explanation.

Hours after it went down, a message appeared telling browsers that the site would be reopened on February 25.

Ali Hasanov, head of the presidential administration's social-political department, rejected unconfirmed claims that the government had shut down the site. "It was a private project," he said. "How could the government close it?"

In December, the government banned foreign radio stations from broadcasting on domestic frequencies, forcing the BBC, RFE/RL, and the Voice of America off the air.

* The original version of this story suggested the closure was a result of government action. However, the reason for the stoppage remains unconfirmed.