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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

With Warning, Rebel Web Site Back Up

To the chagrin of the Kremlin and with a warning from Lithuanian security services, the Chechen rebels' main propaganda tool, the Kavkaz Center web site, is back online.

Kavkazcenter.com went back up Aug. 8 after being down for more than a month following the confiscation of the site's server at the offices of the Elneta Internet service provider in Vilnius by eight Lithuanian State Security Department officers.

The Lithuanian State Security Department issued a statement saying the site had been reinstated against the security service's recommendations and warned that it would be shut down again if anything illegal was found.

"The server was confiscated to investigate whether the site contained propaganda calling for national and religious intolerance and terrorism," Lithuanian State Security Department spokesman Vitautas Makauskas said by telephone from Vilnius. "We have given the evidence to a court to review, and they will make a decision on whether to shut the site down."

Kavkaz Center appears unfazed by the warning. "It doesn't matter if the authorities shut us down on their territory or not," it said in a statement thanking Lithuanian human rights activists, members of parliament and Elneta for their support.

"We will find a way to get the truth about crimes in Chechnya and [President Vladimir] Putin's murderers out regardless," the statement said.

It said the web site was closed because of Kremlin pressure on Vilnius.

The Lithuanian State Security Department said its decision to target the site was based on a review of its content by independent experts. In addition, it wrote in its report to court, the site is linked to people wanted by Interpol.

Kavkaz Center was set up by former Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev's chief ideologist Movladi Udugov after the start of the second Chechen war in 1999. He is now believed to be close to warlord Shamil Basayev.

The UN Security Council last week put Basayev on its official terrorist list, and a representative of Russia's mission to the UN in New York said Udugov also was being considered as a candidate for the list, Itar-Tass reported.

Kavkazcenter.com is officially registered to a man named Movladi Udug, with an address in Turkey. Elneta director Rimantas Pasys, however, said he has not had any dealings with Udugov. He told Gazeta.ru that Elneta's contract is with a certain Khasan Tutuyev, who bears legal responsibility for the site and pays its bills.

Tutuyev told Gazeta.ru that the site is now headed by rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev, whom Moscow is trying to extradite from Britain on murder charges.

Kavkaz Center is the Chechen rebels' main tool for lashing out at Moscow and claiming or denying responsibility for attacks on Russian targets. It also features news and analyses about Chechnya and the Arab world from the rebels' perspective and includes disquieting video footage of rebels destroying Russian government buildings and killing troops.

Problems with the authorities are nothing new for Kavkaz Center. The site started operating in Lithuania in May after being banned in Estonia. Before that, it was based in the United States and Turkey.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the commotion around Kavkas Center was part of the global fight against terrorism. "The Foreign Ministry hopes Lithuanian authorities will follow through with the fight against all kinds of forms of international terrorism," it said.