Bill to create separate Russian internet gets first approval

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The State Duma has passed the first reading of legislation co-authored by Senator Andrey Klishas that would allow the federal authorities to take control over the connection points linking Russian Federation to the global Internet.

The network test is meant to ensure that the Russian internet can operate if cut off.

The bill passed its first reading by 334 votes to 47 after an unusually heated debate in the State Duma, where many lawmakers from minority parties criticised it as too costly and argued that it was not written by experts.

A draft law called the Digital Economy National Program was introduced to parliament past year that would force all state internet providers to re-route internet traffic through exchange points managed by Russia's telecommunications regulator, Roskomndazor.

Potential sources of the online foreign aggression that Russia evidently fears so much are not hard to find: only yesterday British defence secretary Gavin Williamson announced in a speech that the United Kingdom will be spending more of its defence budget on "offensive cyber capabilities" (otherwise called "hacking"), while North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has not been shy of publicly confronting Russian aggression, online and offline, with similar moves to improve what could be called its cyber-deterrent.

Roskomnazor, Russia's telecom watchdog, will monitor all traffic flowing through these points to make sure data is not being routed outside of Russia.

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Russian Federation is reportedly preparing to turn its internet into a nationwide intranet as preparation for hacking attacks from the West.

One of the authors dismissed all criticism, citing the scale of the potential threat from Washington.

"All of the websites in Syria" have been turned off by the U.S. before, he claimed.

Critics say the bill shows the authorities' continued efforts to limit internet freedoms despite the huge public and private cost. "This is very serious", said Andrei Soldatov, who co-authored a book on the history of internet surveillance in Russian Federation. Leonid Volkov, a Navalny aide and IT expert, said Russian Federation had tried and failed to unplug from the internet in 2014. This is similar to the Great Firewall of China, but with the ability to maintain independence with an isolated intranet if needed.

Russian Federation and its main internet providers may be planning to disconnect the country from the internet.