Russia eyes measures to fend off Western Internet threat: Kremlin

A pensioner listens to a young instructor during a free lesson on using the Internet as part of a municipal educational project called "The Krasnoyarsk electronic pensioner" at a youth club in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia must think about protecting its Internet against threats from the West, a Kremlin spokesman said on Friday, in comments that one prominent critic said could herald moves to control all web-based data exchanges with the rest of the world.

The Kremlin dismisses accusations that it wants to isolate the Russian Internet, repeatedly saying its only concern is to ensure national security, especially as relations with the West have plunged to Cold War lows over Ukraine.

But the country has passed several laws targeting Internet use, from making popular bloggers register as media outlets to forcing websites to store Russians' personal data. President Vladimir Putin called the web a "CIA special project" earlier this year.

"It is common knowledge who the main administrator of the global Internet is," Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency on Friday, in what seemed to be a comment directed at the West.

"And due to their unpredictability, we should think of ensuring our national security."

Peskov did not specify what the possible threats from the West were, but added: "Of course, it is in no way possible that Russia could be unplugged from the global Internet, or that it is readying or considering such a possibility," he said.

Prominent Internet blogger and Kremlin critic Anton Nossik said that by citing Western threats, the authorities appeared to be considering ways to put all incoming and outgoing data under strict control.

Earlier on Friday, influential business daily Vedomosti reported that global Internet logistics would be the core subject of Putin's Security Council meeting next week.

"There comes a moment to discuss the complete unplugging of Russia from the global Internet, so that no bytes would come here from abroad," Nossik wrote on his Facebook page. "This is the issue that has been raised and is being discussed."

Putin has embraced a more traditional, conservative way of thinking since returning to the presidency in 2012, moving closer to the Orthodox church and courting an electorate who increasingly see the West as a declining power.

(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Hugh Lawson)