Update (13th January 17:00 GMT): CCFR has informed us that more bitcoin sites were blacklisted, including three .ru domains – coinspot.ru, hasbitcoin.ru and bitcoinconf.ru.
The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) allows visitors to check whether or not a site is blacklisted. At press time, Bitcoin.org, Bitcoin.it, BTCsec.com and bitcoin exchange Indacoin were blacklisted.
According to TJournal.ru, Roskomnadzor cited a ruling of the district court of the city of Nevyansk, Sverdlovsk region, as the reason for the ban. The details behind the ruling and subsequent blacklisting remain unclear.
Crypto Currencies Foundation of Russia (CCFR) chairman Igor Chepkasov told CoinDesk the ruling is part of a much wider clampdown:
"Given the remoteness of the region and the features of the ruling's execution, a court decision issued on September 30th and in the register of blocked sites as of 13th January, we can safely say that this is a dress rehearsal for the prohibition of bitcoin in Russia."
Three of the sites CoinDesk found to be blocked are resource sites – bitcoin.org is a community website sponsored by the Bitcoin Foundation, bitcoin.it is a Wiki project on bitcoin, while btcsec.com is a Russian bitcoin community site, with news, discussion forums and other resources.
Chepkasov said none of the owners of the sites received any punitive statements and notifications, or official correspondence from the government and regulatory agencies official letters (including a list of of claims and recommendations about their elimination).
He called on enthusiasts to fight against such measures:
"Now that bitcoin enthusiasts and entrepreneurs are faced with real restrictions, we can see how the Russian bitcoin community is organised and whether it is ready to fight for its rights. On behalf of the CCFR, I urge all enthusiasts to unite and fight for their rights. I appeal to the victims and notify you that we are ready to provide them with all possible support – consulting, legal and other."
Roskomnadzor’s controversial policies
Roskomnadzor’s Internet blacklist came into effect in late 2012, after Russian lawmakers passed legislation allowing the agency to blacklist websites without a trial. At the time, the authorities said the blacklist would be used to protect minors from websites featuring sexual abuse of children, encouraging drug use, solicit children for pornography or advocate suicide.
However, it soon became apparent that the blacklist was used for more than the original law suggested. A number of Wikipedia articles have been blacklisted, along with certain GitHub pages, Facebook pages and other websites dealing with politically sensitive topics.
Last August, just weeks before the court ruling which led to the blacklisting, the Russian Ministry of Finance drafted a law banning bitcoin. Ministry officials later announced that Russia would pass the digital currency ban in the spring of 2015. However, in late December the country’s Ministry of Economic Development criticised the bill over its perceived vagueness and potential to harm retailers.
Access denied image via Shutterstock