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Russia warns of ‘foreign meddling’ after protests

 

 

Russian lawmakers will hold a special session next week to discuss alleged “meddling” by foreign powers after huge protests in Moscow, following a government warning to YouTube.

The speaker of the lower house State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said on Monday that “facts of meddling in domestic issues in our country” would be debated on August 19.

Russia has accused foreign governments and media of backing the demonstrations, which have seen tens of thousands rally in recent weeks demanding free local elections.

On Sunday, the government’s internet watchdog Roskomnadzor accused Google of “advertising unsanctioned mass actions” on YouTube.

The watchdog pointed to “various structures with YouTube channels” disseminating information about unsanctioned protests.

It said the channels use “advertising instruments” such as “push notifications” to “disrupt elections” and warned Google that Moscow will view inaction on its part as “meddling in Russia’s sovereign elections”.

The rallies, some unsanctioned, have rocked Moscow for the past month, with the largest on Saturday drawing up to 60 000 people.

Protesters are outraged over the exclusion of opposition candidates from Moscow city hall elections next month.

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested including chief Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose team runs a YouTube channel and operated a live feed from the protests.

Roskomnadzor has a fraught relationship with global internet platforms and social networks, but its attempts to control them have not been very successful. Although the Telegram messaging service is formally banned, it is still available in the country.

Navalny’s ally Lyubov Sobol, whose petition to run in the election was rejected, called Roskomnadzor’s demands “comical”.

YouTube notifications are alerts sent to users subscribed to a particular channel about new videos.

Russian senator Andrei Klimov on Monday said senators will be also calling in envoys of countries which “attempted to meddle in Russia’s domestic affairs,” news agency Tass reported.

Last week Moscow summoned a representative of the US embassy, saying a “demonstration alert” it sent with details of the protest amounted to “an attempt to intervene” in Russian affairs.

Moscow also criticised German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle for what it said were calls to take part in the rally.

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