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Russian President Starts Blog, Courts Limit Internet Forums

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has launched an internet blog at the same time officials appear to be moving to limit the flow of information on the Russian Internet. The Kremlin leader has called for greater efforts to control the medium.

In a video posted on LiveJournal, a popular blogging community, President Dmitri Medvedev says the government should create favorable conditions to allow maximum access to Internet services across Russia.

In an apparent reference to the United States, Mr. Medvedev says the Internet should not be dominated by rules established by one country, even if it is the most advanced and powerful of all.

Mr. Medvedev says there should be international and mutually established Internet standards. The World Wide Web, he says, should continue developing as a common medium. This, he notes, is the only way to oppose terrorism, xenophobia, and other unlawful phenomena on the Internet.

Monday, a Moscow court ruled that Russian authorities may shut down any web site, where visitors leave comments deemed extremist. The case involves, the largest news agency in the Ural Mountains region, which has been threatened with a shutdown because of anonymous comments made on its Internet forum.

Monday's decision prompted a comment on Mr. Medvedev's blog from a visitor identified as wunder_bar, who asks if the presidential site can also be closed for extremist statements that are not noticed and deleted on time. editor Aksana Panova told VOA her news agency's case involves the posting of anti-Russian and anti-Semitic remarks with death threats against President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin. Panova says they were removed each time they appeared, and she suspects they could have been a provocation by the authorities themselves.

Panova also mentions comments that appeared on another site in response to a critical item about the Russian auto industry as an example of the chilling effect Monday's court decision is having on the country's Internet.

Panova says people are asking the publisher, "Are not you afraid the authorities will do to you what they did to" Such comments, she says, are already circulating around the Internet, and everyone is looking around asking, "If I write this, will they say its extremist?"

Aksana Panova says she has closed the forum out of fear of possible imprisonment, and characterizes the court decision against the site as a stupid and dangerous precedent that threatens to bring Chinese-style controls to the Russian Internet.

Panova is also calling for President Medvedev to grant specific assurances to Internet forums in Russia to make sure the country has a place for relaxed and free discussion of whatever people wish to discuss.