Russian parliament approves bill to isolate country's internet

Saul Bowman
February 14, 2019

Russian government plans to go one step further and have a fully functional intranet in place, in case the country desires to or is forced to sever ties with the World Wide Web.

The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Programme, makes sure its internet provision can continue to function in the event of external powers attempting to disable the country's service. A draft law mandating technical changes needed to operate independently was introduced to its parliament a year ago. The test will see the Runet run separately from the global internet for a short period of time at some point before 1 April 2019.

The internet shutdown is part of a continuing effort on the part of the Russian Federation and President Vladimir Putin to allow the country's internet to operate independently.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its allies have threatened to sanction Russian Federation over the cyber-attacks and other online interference which it is regularly accused of instigating.

The Bill passed its first reading by 334 votes to 47 after an unusually heated debate in the Lower House State Duma, where many lawmakers from minority parties criticised the proposed law as vague and too costly.

In the short term the planned disconnection is largely meant to assuage the fears of domestic internet service providers that the draft legislation could impose huge costs on them and harm the reliability of the Russian internet. As per the new DNS, the easier to remember domain names will be replaced by resources' numerical addresses, thereby safeguarding Russia' domains against potential attacks.

Average Russians would not lose internet access; the plan would instead change how internet traffic is handled on the back-end.

The bill, co-authored by Andrei Lugovoi - one of the main suspects in the 2006 murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in the United Kingdom - passed its first reading in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday by 334 votes to 47. It would also make it easier for Russian Federation to ban blocked websites, a prospect that's drawn criticism from those who fear Internet censorship, similar to that in China. It also polices its router points, using filters and blocks on keywords and certain websites and redirecting web traffic so that computers can not connect to sites the state does not wish Chinese citizens to see.

According to a ZDNet report, the Russian government has been working on this project for a number of years.

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