Merkel wants to restart Minsk talks on eastern Ukraine

Ukraine's presidential office says website attacked by Russia

Ukraine's presidential office says website attacked by Russia

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that decisive steps should be taken to force Russian Federation to fulfill Minsk agreements.

But by resorting to internet censorship, Kiev is "emulating Russia's repression" says Kenneth Roth of USA -based Human Rights Watch in a Twitter post.

Poroshenko this week ordered Ukrainian Internet providers to block Vkontakte and Odnoclassniki. "In this case, blanket blocking of some of the most popular sites within Ukraine will inevitably result in unnecessary and unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression, affecting millions of people within Ukraine". Yandex claims to have as many as 11,000,000 Ukrainian users while about 25,000,000 of Ukrainian citizens use the Mail.ru platforms for communication. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a sharp escalation in hostilities in late January and early February has "had a devastating impact on all aspects of life for civilians living along the contact line", depriving tens of thousands of people of necessities and life-saving services.From the start, the conflict has involved information as much as guns.

"We call on the Ukrainian government to find a way to protect its national interests that does not undermine its constitutional principles", the official said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed the accusation as baseless. He added that the Kremlin had not ruled out the idea of reciprocity. He and his team had joined the Russian social networks as a tool to counter Kremlin propaganda, but in the aftermath of the recent global cyberattacks around the world, which he linked to the Kremlin, Poroshenko said it was time for Ukraine to "act differently and more decisively" against Russia's propaganda.

By Wednesday, many Internet providers were fulfilling the ban, although some companies and mobile operators said it would take some time to develop the technical capabilities to fully implement the ban. It was hard to ignore them, as nearly 80 percent of Ukrainian internet users are signed up to Vkontakte. And the Yandex search engine is Ukraine's second most popular after Google. Email accounts with Mail.ru, the parent company of Vkontakte and Odnoclassniki, will also be blocked.

It brings the total of sanctioned physical and legal entities to 468 companies, a lot of them Russian, and 1,228 individuals in connection with what Poroshenko called via his own VK page Russia's "hybrid warfare" against Ukraine, including its seizure of Crimea in March 2014 and its role in a conflict in the country's east that has killed more than 9,900 people.

In the lead-up to the annexation of Crimea and the war with Russian-backed eastern separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, Russian state media helped whip up anti-Ukrainian sentiment via news stories targeting Russian-speaking audiences to portray the anti-government protests in Kiev as a Western-orchestrated, fascist coup.

The "Erdoganization of Poroshenko is here" former journalist-turned-lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko tweeted in an ominous reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on that country's press and academia after a failed coup in July 2016. "These Russian sites don't". "Schoolboys told me that they are not going to close their profiles and will simply go through VPN's", says Ukrainian investigative journalist Kristina Berdynskykh, "and Vkontakte has already sent out detailed instructions on how to bypass the ban".

The ban is purportedly a preventative security measure in the information war between Russian Federation and Ukraine, but it will likely put a screeching halt to vital open source intelligence gathering efforts. For this reason, governments have a marked tendency to overreact when dealing with the free flow of information in fraught times: security issues almost always trump free expression concerns.

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