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Russia's president calls for Cyrillic Internet domain

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for Russia to be assigned an Internet domain name in the Cyrillic script on Wednesday as part of a Kremlin drive to promote Russian as a global language.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev attends the International Congress of Russian Press in Moscow June 11, 2008. Medvedev called for Russia to be assigned an Internet domain name in the Cyrillic script on Wednesday as part of a Kremlin drive to promote Russian as a global language. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Dmitry Astakhov

The Kremlin is concerned that Russian, once the main language throughout the Soviet Union, is losing ground to local languages and to the creeping influence of English. It sees defending Russian as a matter of national pride.

He said 300 million people worldwide used Russian media and that a Cyrillic domain name would be a key part of raising the importance of Russian as a language, a task he said was his personal priority as president.

“We must do everything we can to make sure that we achieve in the future a Cyrillic Internet domain name -- it is a pretty serious thing,” Medvedev told the International Congress of Russian Press in Moscow.

“It is a symbol of the importance of the Russian language and Cyrillic and it is not a bad sphere of cooperation. And I think we have a rather high chance of achieving such a decision in the Internet world.”

Medvedev has been keen to portray himself as an Internet-savvy head of state: he has publicly used his mobile telephone to connect to the Internet and says he surfs online every morning for news.

Russian Internet sites use domain names in the Latin script, as in most parts of the Internet. Addresses end either with the suffix .ru, or in some cases .su, a domain name inherited from the Soviet Union.

Industry experts say Russia wants its domain name to be .rf -- for Russian Federation -- but written in the Cyrillic script.

Some in the industry have though raised concerns that it could allow the state to control more of the content in a sphere that has remained a relatively free forum for dissent at a time when traditional media have become subject to tighter control.

Russian is one of the United Nations’ six main languages and the sixth most widely spoken languages in the world after Mandarin, English, Hindi/Urdu, Arabic and Spanish.

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