Russian authorities have blocked jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s mirror website using the tools that help telecom providers “isolate” Russia’s section of the internet, the privacy NGO Roskomsvoboda said Tuesday.
Navalny rolled out the website navalny.app after authorities blocked his main website navalny.com alongside nearly 50 sites linked to him Monday because of “banned extremist activity.” A Moscow court declared Navalny’s political and activist network “extremist” last month, banning anyone affiliated with it from running for office.
According to Roskomsvoboda, Russia’s internet watchdog Roskomnadzor began blocking navalny.app using so-called anti-threat equipment that providers were required to purchase and install under Russia’s “sovereign internet” laws.
President Vladimir Putin signed the “sovereign internet” law in 2019, allowing Russia to disconnect from the world wide web in case of unspecified threats. Recent reporting said Russian telecom providers successfully unplugged from the global internet during June 15-July 15 tests without disrupting access for regular users.
Roskomsvoboda said Russia used the same anti-threat equipment this spring to slow down Twitter’s loading speed as punishment for being slow to delete content that violates Russian law.
Navalny has called on his supporters to bypass the latest restrictions by downloading his “Smart Voting” application that allows users to read content from his blocked website.
Smart Voting’s primary purpose is to mobilize voters to back candidates best placed to defeat pro-Kremlin politicians in elections. A number of ruling United Russia party members have lost their seats in recent local elections through the “Smart Voting” tactic.
United Russia is seeking to retain its supermajority in the Duma in the September vote despite historically low approval ratings. Observers say a recent wave of police raids and detentions of opposition members, as well as tightened election laws that shut out Navalny’s allies, are an attempt to clear the field of United Russia’s opponents.