The authorities in Belarus have blocked access to the website of the pro-Kremlin Russian news agency Regnum.
The October 30 move was the first time Minsk has blocked access to a Russia-based media site, although it earlier blocked the Belarus-based version of the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.
The government of longtime leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka did not issue a statement explaining the decision to block Regnum. The website, however, has published numerous articles criticizing Belarus for supposedly “anti-Russian” policies and urging the rapid unification of the two countries.
Earlier, Belarus blocked access to several Western and independent media outlets, including the websites of Deutsche Welle and Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned the move to block Current Time and vowed to continue providing information to the Belarusian people.
“The Lukashenka regime’s attempts to criminalize journalism know no bounds and are now depriving the Belarusian people of yet another independent source of news and information. Despite Lukashenka’s continued assault, RFE/RL and Current Time will continue to provide objective reporting to the people of Belarus,” he said.
Dozens of news websites have been blocked in Belarus and independent media shuttered as part of a sweeping crackdown on information in the wake of unprecedented protests triggered by the August 2020 presidential election that gave the authoritarian Lukashenka a sixth term. The opposition and the West say the vote was rigged to keep him in power.
Lukashenka's government has cracked down hard on the pro-democracy movement, arresting thousands of people and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country. The Vyasna human rights center says it considers 833 people to be political prisoners.
Authorities have also declared hundreds of opposition Telegram channels and social-media sites “extremist,” and anyone operating or using such sites can face jail time or fines.
In the latest move, the Belarusian Interior Ministry on October 29 classified three of the country's most popular opposition social media channels as “extremist” organizations.