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Russia demands Twitter ban account of Khodorkovsky's 'MBK Media,' one day after warning US tech giant could be blocked entirely

Russia demands Twitter ban account of Khodorkovsky's 'MBK Media,' one day after warning US tech giant could be blocked entirely
Russia’s media regulator has lodged a request with Twitter, insisting the social media platform must take action against a strongly anti-Kremlin outlet run by a former 1990s oligarch, over claims it’s breaching the country’s laws.

MBK Media, the mouthpiece of disgraced Yeltsin-era tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, announced on Wednesday that it had received a message from the California-based company notifying it of the demand.

“We inform you that Twitter has received an official request from the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media of the Russian Federation (Roskomnadzor) regarding the content on your Twitter account @MBKhMedia as violating the laws of the Russian Federation,” the correspondence is reported to have related.

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According to the news site, the demand references claims that content from Open Russia, a political pressure group banned by the country’s Prosecutor General as an ‘undesirable organization,’ is shared on its account.

“The editorial board has not received any warnings from Roskomndazor,” Chief Editor of MBK Media, Veronika Kutsyllo, said. “Roskomnadzor continues to do stupid things with a zeal worthy of better causes… We do not publish anyone's materials, except our own – news, notes, videos, podcasts.”

Twitter is already facing a forced slowing of its service in Russia over claims it has refused to delete unlawful content, said to include child pornography, calls for suicide, and content encouraging the use of drugs. On Wednesday, the deputy head of Roskomnadzor, Vadim Subbotin, said that Russia is preparing to take even tougher action against the service if it fails to comply with demands. If “Twitter does not adequately respond to our requests,” he said, “then in a month it will be blocked without needing a court order.”

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In a statement issued last week, the social media giant said it was “aware of reports that Twitter is being intentionally slowed down broadly and indiscriminately in Russia due to apparent content removal concerns.” The tech firm added that it was “deeply concerned by increased attempts to block and throttle online public conversation.”

Last weekend, police in Moscow broke up a summit they say was staged by the Open Russia group which, like MBK, was founded by Khodorkovsky as a vehicle for his political opposition against the Kremlin. Several dozen officers raided the convention hall in the East of the capital, announcing that the meeting was illegal because of the group’s ‘undesirable’ designation. The official organizers were listed as ‘Open Saint Petersburg,’ said to be an affiliate of Open Russia.

Khodorkovsky was arrested on fraud charges in 2003 and served more than a decade in prison before receiving a Presidential pardon from Vladimir Putin in 2013. Many of the charges related to the collapse of his former oil empire, Yukos, bought for a fraction of its value as part of an allegedly rigged auction that one economic adviser described as “the swindle of the century.”

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Once among the world’s largest energy firms, it was shuttered shortly after the businessman’s arrest, facing a $27 billion tax bill from the government. Its shareholders are now suing the Russian state, arguing that its assets had been appropriated.

Khodorkovsky has always claimed that the conviction was solely a result of his opposition to the Kremlin. However, although a number of applications were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights, the court ultimately ruled that his trial was not politically motivated.

It was reported on Wednesday that Roskomnadzor also requested that Twitter block the account of the Association of Schools of Political Studies at the Council of Europe, which is similarly designated as an ‘undesirable organization.’

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