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Putin calls for internet monitoring of some companies during Russian presidential election crackdown

Russian President Vladimir Putin (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)
December 28, 2017

Russian president Vladimir Putin said the web activity of “some companies” should be monitored during the 2018 Russian presidential election and their involvement in domestic politics should be assessed, Reuters reported.

“We need to look carefully at how some companies work in internet, in social media, and how widely they are involved in our domestic political life,” Putin said at a meeting in Russia’s parliament about a “foreign agents” law.

Reuters Top News (Twitter)

The law allows Russian authorities to designate some foreign media outlets as “foreign agents”, due to what Russia says was unacceptable U.S. pressure on Russian media, Reuters reported.

However, Putin did not specify if he was talking about international or domestic companies.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America have already been designated as “foreign agents.”

Earlier this week, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from running in next year’s presidential electiondespite being Putin’s most serious contender.

The election ban is due to a conviction in a fraud case which is widely viewed and understood to be political retribution for being outspoken against Putin. Navalny’s brother was also convicted. The Memorial Human Rights Center labels Navalny as a political prisoner.

Navalny has been arrested many times on various charges, mostly related to pursuing opening up the truth about corporate and political corruption scandals in creative ways. Interestingly, some of Navalny’s convictions have come with suspended prison terms which Putin critics say are to hold leverage over Navalny while simultaneously preventing riots and uprisings from Navalny’s supporters.

Navalny would have been able to run for President if he was given a special waiver or if his conviction was overturned.

Navalny told the commission, before the vote, that their vote to ban him would be “not against me, but against 16,000 people who have nominated me, against 200,000 volunteers who have been canvassing for me.”

In the press conference after the vote he called for the election boycott and said, “The procedure that we’re invited to take part is not an election,” he said. “Only Putin and the candidates he has hand-picked are taking part in it.”

“Going to the polls right now is to vote for lies and corruption,” he added.

To date, Putin has never had a serious challenger to his power which allows him to avoid engaging in any substantive discussion about Russian corruption, freedom of press, the deaths and imprisonments of opposition leaders and figures, the manipulation of the Russian economy and political system and other commonly discussed issues on the world stage.