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Meet Vladimir Putin's new Internet advisor What we know about German Klimenko, thanks to two recent interviews

Meduza
Photo: Alexey Nikolsky / TASS / Scanpix

German Klimenko has officially agreed to become Vladimir Putin's advisor on the Internet. Within a few days of accepting this responsibility, Klimenko managed to grant several interviews to the Russian media, including a pair of particularly noteworthy conversations with the independent outlets Dozhd and Vedomosti. Meduza examines these interviews and summarizes what Klimenko leads us to expect from his tenure as Putin's pointman on all things online.

German Klimenko is the owner of the blog hosting platform Liveinternet.ru, and also the website Mediametrics.ru, which claims to measure Internet traffic to news stories from social media. In February 2015, he became head of the Institute for the Development of the Internet, which was created with the support of Putin's first deputy chief of staff, Vyacheslav Volodin. The institute is tasked with establishing cooperation between online companies and the Russian state.

German Klimenko is deeply loyal to the Kremlin

In his interviews with Vedomosti and Dozhd, Klimenko defended the government's many recent laws and court decisions narrowing Internet freedoms. (The only move he opposed was the blocking of torrent-tracker Rutracker, on the grounds that “people easily learn how to bypass blockings.”) Klimenko said he sees no danger in Russia's current import-substitution campaign (which also applies to software), he declined to criticize in any way Roskomnadzor (the state's media watchdog agency), and he went out of his way to praise both Volodin and Putin. 

In Klimenko's own words: “Volodin has had a very impressive career. I have great respect for any officials who have managed this.”

German Klimenko understands how authority functions in Russia

Just look at how he uses the word “appointed.”

In Klimenko's own words: “Frankly, if they appointed someone else in Vladimir Putin's place, then everything would have been closed down a long time ago.” (When talking about foreign online services.)

German Klimenko thinks the Internet is under-regulated

Klimenko believes that the Internet is currently freer than television, but this doesn't mean TV is over-regulated; it means the Internet should be regulated more aggressively. 

In Klimenko's own words: “No, if you start from a point of complete freedom, in which the Internet existed for a long time, then you need to introduce regulations, of course. Otherwise, you might as well argue that road traffic doesn't need any rules. Now there were times when people online could get away with saying anything to each other, and there weren't any consequences. But that's not how it should be. In real life, you can call the police and someone gets fined for hooliganism. There's at least some recourse to deal with this sort of thing. Also, the world is changing. Now the Internet is flooded with money, and criminals, and terrorists. Of course, all this needs to be regulated.”

Also in Klimenko's own words: “I'm sure that [the instant-messenger app] Telegram will either cooperate or be shut down. In America and in France, they're also being asked for their access codes, and they'll be shut down there, too, if they refuse.”

German Klimenko already considers himself a member of the authorities

In Klimenko's own words: “We're too tactful, always afraid of offending someone. We're afraid of you [the independent media]. After all, if we shut down Google or Facebook, you'll go ahead and blame us for cracking down on freedom, right?”

Preserving market competition is a drawback for Klimenko

Klimenko accuses foreign companies of dishonest market practices in Russia, saying they leverage unfairly their greater financial assets, and behave cynically in other countries. Klimenko also criticizes the market practices of some Russian companies, implying that competition needs controls even domestically. 

In Klimenko's own words: “We have a lot of competition domestically. Sometimes it might even be harmful. Perhaps it need to be restricted.”

German Klimenko's most valuable life experience was serving in the army

In both his interviews, Klimenko managed to mention his army service thrice. (He graduated from a Military Space Academy in St. Petersburg.) Whenever reflecting on his past in the military, Klimenko's memories are fond and upbeat. 

In Klimenko's own words: (Answering a question about his decision to become Putin's Internet advisor) “When I served in the army, there would be orders for officer appointments. Simply out of respect, you were given three days to weigh the orders. It was understood that, on the third day, the answer was always ‘yes.’”