Russian official blames Google for stirring revolutions

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's deputy blamed Google, the company behind the world's number one Internet search engine, for stirring up trouble in the revolution that ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

"Look what they have done in Egypt, those highly-placed managers of Google, what manipulations of the energy of the people took place there," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published today (22 February).

The strength of the comments from one of Putin's most trusted deputies is a clear signal of growing concern among Russian hardliners about the role played the Internet in the unrest which has swept across the Arab world, Reuters commented.

In fact, Sechin was asked by the WSJ's Gregory White what he thought was needed for Russia to change in order to become more attractive to foreign investors.

He replied by saying that over the past 25 years everything had changed in Russia and that the country enjoyed one of the highest degrees of political stability in the world.

But White countered: "[Ousted Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak probably said the same thing."

This is not the first time that the 'domino revolutions' across the Arab world have been seen impacting upon Russia.

Speaking in the European Parliament recently, prominent Russian opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov said that if his country's citizens were denied the possibility of holding free and fair elections next December, the alternative would be "a revolution, not with camels like in Egypt, but with pistols and sticks".

Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Russian prime minister (2000-2004) who is now leader of the Russian People's Democratic Union (RNDS), a recently-established party, called on the EU to stay alert not only on election day but throughout political developments leading up to the elections.

Events in Cairo appeared to emulate Tunisia's 'Jasmine Revolution'. On 14 January, angry Tunisians ousted authoritarian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after more than 23 years in power. On 11 February Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled his country with a iron fist for three decades, stepped down following 18 days of massive protests.

In both cases, social media such as Facebook and Twitter greatly helped the protesters in getting organised against the authorities. A Google staffer in Egypt, Wael Ghoneim, became an iconic face of the Egyptian revolution.

In contrast to state television, Russia's Internet is remarkably free and home to often scathing criticism of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev and the entire Russian elite.

Russia has so far resisted placing restrictions on the Internet, but analysts say there is a group of hard-liners close to Putin who would like to impose controls similar to China's.

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