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Russian Manhandled Over Social Media Comment

Federal police in St. Petersburg have accused a man in St. Petersburg of inciting hatred and enmity following a comment he made on social media. His house was raided, while the man was pinned down on the ground with his hands tied behind his back, Meduza reports.

The arrested individual, 36-year-old Artem Chebotarev, is co-founder of a community on Russia’s popular social network VKontakte called “Free Ingria,” a geographical area that partly covers the north of Russia. The social media group connects users who believe that the St. Petersburg region should declare its independence from Russia, Radio Free Europe says.

The investigators didn’t specify the contents of the social media comment but said Chebotarev was posting statements against Moscow and its inhabitants, Russia’s business daily Kommersant reported.

The federal police officials also added that their tough approach was justified by information that they had received that the man had weapons in his house.

Chebotarev was later released, Russia’s Novaya Gazeta says.   •Russia toughened punishment for separatist ideas in 2014, after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.  The new legislation put stricter regulations on online media, as well as increased the prison terms for "public calls for actions violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation," The Guardian says.

•In Late April, a man known as one of the “founding fathers” of the Internet, Anton Nossik, was charged with extremism for a 2015 blog post about Syria. A prominent blogger, Nossik has been accused of hate speech according to the criminal code and may be sentenced to up to four years in prison.

•Russia’s top investigator Alexander Bastrykin recently proposed changes in legislation that regulates the Internet, which would be based on the Chinese model. The suggested measures included restrictions on foreign ownership of Internet sites and a stricter definition of what constitutes extremism in relation to Crimea, among other things.