* Minister calls for Internet limits to protect youth
* Interior minister's call raises fear of Internet controls
* Russian-language bloggers ridicule Nurgaliyev's remarks
By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Russia's interior minister called
on Tuesday for limits on the Internet to prevent a slide in
traditional cultural values among young people, raising fears of
controls over the vibrant Russian-language web.
Many of Russia's 53 million web users fear that hardliners
around Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would like to impose
Chinese-style limits on the Internet to stave off any potential
Arab Spring-style unrest ahead of the presidential election.
Russia's iPad-wielding president, Dmitry Medvedev, has ruled
out draconian controls while suggesting a discussion of how to
deal with clearly illegal content such as child pornography.
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev is the most senior
official to publicly propose limits for cultural reasons.
"It is necessary to work out a set of measures for limiting
the activities of certain Internet resources without encroaching
on the free exchange of information," ITAR-TASS quoted him as
telling an inter-ministerial meeting on fighting extremism.
Nurgaliyev, who did not indicate which sites he felt should
be curbed, said that Russia's youth needed looking after to
prevent young people from being corrupted by "lopsided" ideas,
especially in music, that may undermine traditional values.
"It seems to me that the time has long been ripe to carry
out monitoring in the country to find out what they are
listening to, what they are reading, what they are watching," he
was quoted as saying of Russia's youth.
"They have forgotten the love songs of old, the waltzes,
everything that united us, our background and our roots," the
54-year-old former KGB officer said.
Nurgaliyev's lament echoes a wider perception among older
Russians that morals have slipped in the two decades since the
1991 fall of the Soviet Union, but his call provoked ridicule
and concern in the vibrant Russian-language blogosphere.
"Well, what can I say? I am not even going to say this is
completely absurd," Alexei Nikitin said on his Russian language
blog at http://aleks-nikitin97.livejournal.com/32268.html
"Sirs, idiocy is taking over the country."
Andrei Makarevich, the leader of the popular Russian
soft-rock group Mashina Vremeni, or Time Machine, told NTV
television that Nurgaliyev's comments were so confusing he could
not find words to describe them.
But Russian intelligence expert Andrei Soldatov said
Nurgaliyev's comments camouflaged a wider drive by
law-enforcement forces to establish intrusive monitoring of the
"Nurgaliyev... wants to use budget funds to set up a system
to monitor the Internet," Soldatov, head of the think-tank
Agentura.ru, told Reuters. "The fact that Russian
law-enforcement forces have begun actively working with
companies to exchange information in this sphere is turning the
concept of 'privacy' into a complete illusion."
In a country where much media is state-run, the Internet is
one of the last bastions of free speech. Russian bloggers freely
criticise authorities, often scathingly, question high-level
corruption and swap information without fear of censorship.
The Internet has played a crucial role in the unrest that
has rocked North Africa and the Middle East, prompting some
governments to tighten controls over access.
Such turmoil is unlikely in the near future in Russia, but
some hardliners appear keen to ensure they could limit content
on the Internet in the event of unrest.
A senior officer in Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB),
the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said in April that
uncontrolled use of Gmail, Hotmail and Skype were "a major
threat to national security" and called for access to the
encrypted communication providers.
Western diplomats told Reuters that a series of cyber
attacks on prominent hosting websites in recent months --
including Medvedev's own blog -- had all the hallmarks of a
highly organised, well-financed hacker attack.
(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Alissa de
Carbonnel; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
(; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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