Russia blocks access to Google News after Wagner Group forces threaten to topple military

Russia blocks access to Google News after Wagner Group forces threaten to topple military

Russian internet service providers have cut off access to Google News after President Vladamir Putin accused Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner paramilitary group, of “organizing an armed rebellion.” According to internet monitor NetBlocks (via The New York Times), at least five Russian telecoms, including Rostelecom, U-LAN and Telplusl, are blocking web users inside the country from accessing the news aggregator. Google did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request.

⚠️ Confirmed: Metrics show that the Google News aggregator platform has become unavailable for many users in #Russia; the incident comes amid heightened tensions between the Wagner paramilitary group and Moscow

— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 23, 2023

On late Friday, Wagner Group mercenaries crossed the border from Ukraine into Rostov-on-Don, located 20 miles from the Sea of Azov, and appeared to take the city, which is home to Russia’s southern military headquarters, without much resistance from the regular army. As of Saturday, BBC News is reporting Wagner forces are moving north toward Moscow. Prigozhin has vowed to topple Russia’s Defense Ministry in response to a missile attack he claims the regular army carried out against Wagner personnel stationed in Ukraine. In addition to being the founder of the Wagner Group, Prigozhin is the funder and creator of the Internet Research Agency, the troll farm behind Russia’s 2016 US election interference campaign.

Putin, framing Prigozhin’s rebellion as a “deadly threat” to Russian statehood, has promised harsh consequences for any who join the paramilitary group. “Everyone who deliberately embarked on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed rebellion, chose the path of blackmail and terrorist methods — they will suffer inevitable punishment,” he said Saturday, according to The Washington Post.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, many Western tech firms either pulled out of the country or saw their services blocked by telecom regulator Roskomnadzor. Facebook and Twitter are among the platforms that have either been partly or fully blocked within the country since March of last year.

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