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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Flock to the Net for Latest From Iraq

Russians hungry for the latest war developments in Iraq have flocked to the Internet in numbers not seen since the Dubrovka hostage crisis last fall.

Since the war began six days ago, the country's top Internet news outlets have seen their traffic jump by an average of 50 percent.

Traffic doubled last Thursday, the first day of the war, according to a firm that monitors the country's web network, known as RuNet.

"The number of visitors to RuNet news resources has leaped since the beginning of the war in Iraq," said Fyodor Virin, a spokesman for Spylog Internet statistics agency. "We observed a 100-percent increase last Thursday and a 50-percent increase in the following days."

News sites around the world have seen anywhere between a 50-percent increase and a 400-percent increase in their traffic after the U.S.-led military campaign began in Iraq, Dow Jones reported Friday.

According to Rambler's Top 100 list put together Monday, news resources RosBusinessConsulting at www.rbc.ru, Dni.ru and Gazeta.ru took the top spots behind Mail.ru's catalog and email sites as the top five most frequently visited sites.

News agency Rbc.ru saw a jump from just above 100,000 unique visitors per day to some 200,000 visitors a day since last Thursday.

The number of visitors to online news site Gazeta.ru peaked Thursday at almost 165,000 unique visitors, or double the regular 80,000 to 90,000 unique visitors the site sees daily.

"We currently see a 40-percent to 50-percent increase in the number of visitors," said Natalya Kutusheva, a spokeswoman for Gazeta.ru.

Another news site, Lenta.ru, has experienced a similar skyrocketing growth among its audience since last Thursday, with 120,000 unique visitors the first day of the war and 80,000 to 90,000 unique visitors in the following days, a significant increase in volume over its standard 60,000 unique visitors a day.

The Internet site, www.iraqwar.ru, created especially to cover the war in Iraq by participants of the Military Historical Forum-2, at www.vif2.ru, has seen some 45,000 unique visits since the U.S. forces crossed the border in pursuit of Saddam Hussein, the site's spokesman Konstantin Prokhortsev said.

He added that traffic might have been even higher had it not been for numerous attacks on the site from hackers since they launched the site last week.

Prokhortsev said he thought most of the attacks have come from U.S. Internet users, judging from the IP addresses.

This, he thought, was "the manifestation of the U.S. statement that Russians are to blame for their problems in the United States."

Referring to the United States, he said, "Just like they enjoy bombing [Iraq], they enjoy attacking sites like ours. It makes it nearly impossible for us to regularly update information on our web site and make it accessible to our visitors."

As substantial as these increases may be, Russian Internet news sites have seen bigger spikes. "The biggest jump in Russian news site traffic happened after the Sept. 11 [2001] attacks in the United States and after the Dubrovka theater crisis in Moscow last October," Lenta.ru spokesman Maxim Fatkin said.

And the higher levels of online news readers aren't likely to disappear completely even when the war ends, Gazeta.ru's Kutusheva said. "Cataclysms like this raise the regular audience of Internet news sites, and after that site traffic hovers about 30 percent higher than before such events."