Russia bans several websites critical of government in latest crackdown on independent media

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MOSCOW – Russia on Thursday banned several websites notable for their criticism of the government and a blog run by prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny as the Kremlin intensified its crackdown on independent media amid tensions over Ukraine.

The government communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said Grani.ru, Kasparov.ru and Yezhednevny Zhurnal (Daily Journal) have carried incitements to unlawful behaviour and participation in unauthorized mass gatherings. It said the ban was requested by the Prosecutor General’s Office and Internet providers are now under instructions to implement the block.

Kasparov.ru was run by opposition figure and former chess champion Garry Kasparov. Along with two other websites, it carried scathing criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s government, including its action in Ukraine, where Russian troops have taken control of the Crimean peninsula. On Sunday, Crimea is set to hold a referendum on joining Russia, which has been rejected by Ukraine and the West as illegitimate.

Navalny’s blog also was banned Thursday over the alleged violation of the terms of the two-month house arrest that he is currently serving.

The action against independent websites came a day after the owner of Lenta.ru, a leading online news outlet, fired its editor over coverage of Ukraine.

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