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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Urals Web Site Facing Closure

The largest online news portal in the Urals Federal District could be shut down because of purportedly extremist comments posted in its discussion forum, the web site's editor said Tuesday.

Editors of the web site, which covers news in six regions, believe that the comments were a "provocation" aimed at closing the web site because of its critical coverage of regional and federal officials, editor Aksana Panova told The Moscow Times in a telephone interview.

The site is facing closure after a court on Monday ruled that comments calling for the deaths of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev and Jews were extremist in nature.

Comments reading, "Let's kill Putin," "Let's kill Medvedev" and "Let's kill Jews," appeared in one of the site's forums hundreds of times in April 2008 despite the fact that the site's moderators repeatedly deleted the posts.

After the site's editors chose to shut down the forum, the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service issued two warnings over the comments in June, giving authorities a legal basis for closing the web site.

The editors filed three separate appeals, all of which were rejected in court. The final ruling was issued Monday by the Federal Arbitration Court of the Moscow District.

While authorities now have grounds to seek the site's closure, Federal Mass Media Inspection Service spokesman Yevgeny Strelchik said Tuesday that his agency was not planning to initiate such proceedings. "We could have done it last year if we wanted to," Strelchik said.

Oleg Panfilov, head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, said authorities could use the two warnings as a "blackmail" tool to influence the web site's editorial line by threatening to shut it down. It is "absolutely clear" that the incendiary comments had been made by a computer program, he said.

"There's no way that editors can cope with such a flow of posts," Panfilov said.