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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Orders Pravda.ru to Delete Cartoons

The Federal Security Service has ordered an Internet provider to delete cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed from two web sites, including the news publication Pravda.ru, the web sites said Thursday.

Pravda.ru and the other web site, Caricatura.ru, denied publishing the caricatures, but Pravda.ru closed its homepage on Thursday as a precaution against any possible legal action, said its owner, Vadim Gorshenin.

"By order of the Federal Security Service, access to Pravda.ru materials is suspended," said a notice on the site's otherwise empty homepage.

Pravda.ru, the ninth most-popular news portal in Russia by the number of daily visitors, was continuing to post news reports, and visitors can access individual story pages from links on search engines, Gorshenin said.

Pravda.ru received the instruction from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, by way of its Internet provider, Masterhost, he said. The owner of Caricatura.ru, Ruslan Kurepin, is a representative of Masterhost.

Kurepin said the instruction informed Masterhost that "unidentified people" had placed materials on Pravda.ru and Caricatura.ru that could rouse enmity among different religious denominations.

In fact, the FSB told Masterhost, not the respective web sites, to delete the materials, Kurepin said. "It's a most vexing question for all of us," he said.

A duty officer at the FSB news center said he could neither confirm nor deny the order. The government has the right to issue a warning to a publication accused of disseminating offensive information. It may ask a court to close the publication after a second warning within a 12-month period. Any such warning is open to a challenge in court.

Gorshenin accused the FSB of not treating Pravda.ru as a legal entity because it contacted the Internet provider first. "It's like asking a printing house, rather than a newspaper, not to print something," he said.

He said the site was working to receive clarification from the FSB about what content it considered caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. It would reopen its homepage afterward.

A Danish newspaper in September published 12 caricatures of Mohammed, provoking protests from Muslims over the world.

The Russian government is seeking to shut down an online news agency in the Altai region after an anonymous reader posted a reprint of a similar cartoon on its forum. Earlier this month, the government also warned the Moscow-based Gazeta.ru news portal over posting a caricature of the prophet.