* Official said Twitter's blocking has become "inevitable"
* Medvedev tells official to "Use his brain"
* Putin has enacted law requiring websites to register
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, May 16 Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
criticised an official on Friday for threatening that Moscow
could block online networking site Twitter, in an
apparent attempt to silence rumours that Russia could cut
His comments, posted on his Facebook page, came after the
deputy director of Russia's communications watchdog agency
Maksim Ksenzov told Izvestia newspaper that Russia's blocking of
U.S.-based Twitter had become "unavoidable".
"Individual officials, responsible for the development of
the industry should sometimes use their brains and not give
interviews announcing the closure of social networking sites,"
However, Ksenzov's comments have heightened fears that the
Kremlin is clamping down on media and Internet freedom following
the ousting of Ukraine's Russia-backed former president Viktor
Yanukovich by popular protests organised over social networks
There was an immediate backlash on the site. One user named
Denis Valeyev joked that Russia would make its own version of
Twitter, like China's microblogging site Weibo.
"Let's wait for the Russian version - State Company
'Tweeter' that everyone can access with their passport details
and residence permit," he said.
With 61 million users, Russia's Internet audience is
Europe's fastest growing, according to a 2013 report by industry
body comScore, and its often opposition-oriented blogosphere has
been one of the last media beyond the Kremlin's reach.
But Putin, who has described the Internet as a CIA project,
signed a law this month requiring websites that attract more
than 3,000 daily visits to register by name with Ksenzov's
Russian Communications Supervision Agency and adhere to
regulations on the mass media.
The law will also require social media websites to keep
their servers in Russia and save information about users for at
least six months.
Georgy Satarov, a Kremlin aide under Putin's predecessor
Boris Yeltsin, wrote on his on his blog that new laws were being
used to clamp down on dissent at a time when the nation's
attention diverted to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, blamed by
Russia's state media on anti-Russian neo-Nazis.
"The authorities are forming in the minds of Russians the
images of internal and external enemies. We acknowledge that
there is a transition to a totalitarian fascist regime," he
Talk-show host Ksenia Sobchak, who rose to prominence during
the large protest movement against Putin in 2011-12, said the
Russian authorities' fear of Twitter was based on its potential
to mobilise protesters.
"Of course Twitter bothers them. It's an instantaneous
mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of people," she wrote on
Opposition to Putin remains even though Putin's approval
ratings have soared following Russia's annexation of Crimea and
protests since then have only been small and sporadic.
Critics say Russia has already taken measures to increase
its control over the Internet and media this year.
The editor of popular Internet news site Lenta.ru was
dismissed this year and independent TV Dozhd has gone off the
air. The head of VKontakte, Russia's answer to Facebook, has
been ousted and fled the country.
(Editing by Alison Williams)