Kremlin cracking down on Internet to muzzle critics: Analysts

Moscow: As Vladimir Putin starts his fourth Kremlin term, authorities are turning up the heat on popular websites and apps ostensibly to fight terrorism but analysts say the real motive is to muzzle critics.
A move this week to block the strongly encrypted messenger Telegram, less than a month after Putins crushing poll win, marks a new stage in the crackdown launched after his previous victory in 2012.
Telegram, which has 200 million users and is ironically the go-to messaging app for top Kremlin officials, was specifically designed by Russian developers to circumvent the Kremlins security forces. Putin has gradually brought media, primarily television, under state control since the early 2000s. Experts say the Kremlin recognises the internet as the principal threat to its domination and one of the last refuges of free speech—especially after it helped fuel unprecedented mass demonstrations when Putin returned to the presidency six years ago after four years as prime minister.
“The Kremlin got scared and responded with an attack on internet freedoms,” said Andrei Soldatov, editor-in-chief of Agentura.