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Russian News Site Meduza Targeted In Call For 'Extremism' Probe

Meduza editor in chief Galina Timchenko said the interview revealed Islamic State to be a "monstrous, medieval, and inhuman organization whose existence is a catastrophe and threat to the world as we know it."

MOSCOW -- A Russian lawmaker says he has asked the authorities to investigate whether the Russian-language online news outlet Meduza violated extremism laws by publishing an interview with a radical Muslim cleric based in Berlin.

State Duma Deputy Vadim Dengin told the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia that he had asked Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office and Investigative Committee to launch an extremism probe against Meduza in connection with its interview last month with the imam, Murad Atayev.

Dengin said that the interview, in which Atayev defends the decapitation of journalists and destruction of historical artifacts in the city of Mosul, amounted to a "call to extremism" and an "advertisement" for the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Meduza's editor in chief, Galina Timchenko, dismissed the allegations in a June 10 Facebook post.

She said the interview, conducted by Meduza special correspondent Daniil Turovsky, revealed IS militants to be a "monstrous, medieval and inhuman organization whose existence is a catastrophe and threat to the world as we know it."

"It is hard to think of material that better exposes IS than Dani Turovsky's interview with imam Atayev," Timchenko wrote.

Atayev, a Russian speaker, works at a Berlin mosque that was raided by police this year and is reportedly considered a recruiting hub for IS fighters.

The push for an extremism probe is seen as a shot across the bow of Meduza, a Riga-based outfit staffed by Russian journalists who resigned in protest from the popular online news portal last year after Timchenko was forced out as chief editor.

Timchenko was ousted after published an interview with a member of the far-right Ukrainian group Right Sector, which is banned in Russia. The move was seen as part of a broader Kremlin campaign to neutralize online outlets critical of the government.

Timchenko moved to the Latvian capital, where she set up Meduza in October 2014.

Dengin's call for Meduza to be investigated also comes amid rising concern in Russia about IS militants. Hundreds of fighters from Russia -- particularly from its troubled and mainly Muslim North Caucasus region -- are thought to have taken up arms alongside IS fighters

What's more, in recent weeks Russia appears to have encountered a problem faced earlier in Western Europe: young women being coaxed online to flee their homes and join the IS ranks.

Varvara Karaulova, a student at the prestigious Moscow State University, was reportedly detained on June 4 along with a group of fellow Russians near Turkey's border with Syria as she attempted to cross into IS-occupied territory.

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