RUSSIA – Access to Google News has been restricted in Russia after President Vladamir Putin accused Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the paramilitary group Wagner, of “organizing an armed rebellion”. Prigozhin was accused of this by President Putin. According to internet watchdog NetBlocks (via The New York Times), at least five different Russian telecommunications companies, including Rostelecom, U-LAN and Telplusl, block online users located in the country from accessing the aggregate of news.
Engadget’s request for a statement was met with Google’s silence for some time. Late on Friday, mercenaries from the Wagner Group crossed the border from Ukraine to Rostov-on-Don, located 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Sea of Azov. The city, home to the southern Russian military headquarters, appeared to be taken without much resistance from the Russian regular army. According to reports from BBC News last Saturday, soldiers from Wagner are currently heading north to Moscow.
In retaliation for a missile attack, which Prigozhin says was carried out by regular army forces against Wagner’s forces stationed in Ukraine, Prigozhin pledged to bring down the Russian Defense Ministry. Prigozhin is not only the founder of the Wagner Group, but he is also the initiator and founder of the Internet Research Agency, which was the troll farm that was behind Russia’s operation to interfere in the 2016 elections in the United States.
Putin presented the Prigozhin uprising as a “deadly threat” to Russia’s statehood, and he threatened severe penalties for anyone joining the paramilitary force. “All those who have deliberately taken the path of treason, who have prepared an armed rebellion, who have chosen the path of blackmail and terrorist methods – they will suffer inevitable punishment,” he warned on Saturday, according to the Washington Post. “All those who have deliberately taken the path of treason, who have prepared an armed rebellion, who have chosen the path of blackmail and terrorist methods.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the previous year, a significant number of Western tech companies pulled out of the country entirely or had their services blocked by the country’s telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor. Since March last year, the government of this country has started blocking access to certain websites and services throughout the country, including Facebook and Twitter.