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Anti-Islam Film to Be Blocked on Russian Internet, Providers Say

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Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russia’s biggest Internet providers said they’ve been ordered by the Prosecutor General’s Office to block access to an anti-Islamic film that has provoked violent protests across the Muslim world.

“MegaFon is taking necessary measures to prevent the further distribution of the clip among subscribers,” Dmitry Smirkin, a spokesman for the Russian mobile operator controlled by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, said today by e-mail.

OAO Mobile TeleSystems, Russia’s biggest mobile phone company, is acting to fulfil the “regulator’s requests,” Valeriya Kuzmenko, a spokeswoman for the company known as MTS, said by e-mail. VimpelCom Ltd. “received the information about the need to restrict access to the film and is acting in this direction,” Anna Aybasheva, a spokeswoman, said by e-mail.

The prosecutor’s office yesterday instructed Russian Internet providers to block the distribution of the film “Innocence of the Muslims,” and said it would seek a court order banning the video as extremist because it offends religious feelings and provokes inter-ethnic conflict.

The 14-minute trailer, posted on Google Inc.’s YouTube, shows a fictional attack by Muslims on a Christian family, followed by an account of the origins of Islam depicting Muhammad as a womanizer.

The film, which the U.S. has described as “very offensive,” last week triggered violent demonstrations and attacks on U.S. and European targets in several Muslim countries. U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three colleagues were killed in an attack in Benghazi, while Muslim protesters in Tunis and elsewhere died in clashes with government security forces.

Google Inc.’s Russian office said today it can’t comment on legal matters.

Russia has 16.4 million Muslims, or 11.7 percent of the total population, according to the Pew Research Center. The country has suffered a spate of terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists, including a January 2011 blast at its busiest airport, Domodedovo in Moscow, that killed 37 people.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ilya Khrennikov in Moscow at ikhrennikov@bloomberg.net; Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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