The Navalny campaign says it managed to “break” the Russian government’s ban on his website through the “brilliant work of their technological team.” “It was pretty easy,” says Leonid Volkov, who managed Navalny’s presidential run last year. In an interview with the newspaper Vedomosti, Volkov declined to specify exactly how the campaign managed to re-establish access to Navalny.com, but several Russian Internet users confirmed that the website was loading for them again, after ISPs started blocking it earlier on Thursday.
After restoring access to Navalny.com, the website briefly went down again, allegedly due to a DDoS attack. “I guess this is Roskomnadzor’s last resort,” Volkov wrote on Twitter, referring to Russia’s federal censor. At the time of this writing, Navalny.com is up and running like normal.
On February 15, Roskomnadzor ordered Russian ISPs to start blocking access to Navalny.com on the grounds that the website refuses to delete photos and videos blacklisted by a court order in oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s lawsuit against a self-described escort who calls herself “Nastya Rybka” (whose real name is Anastasia Vashukevich). Five media outlets, as well as Instagram, have complied with Roskomnadzor’s takedown orders. The Russian authorities and Google are reportedly still in negotiations about deleting the Deripaska content from YouTube, including a 25-minute video
uploaded by Navalny that currently has more than 5.1 million views.
Navalny is suing Roskomnadzor for blacklisting his website, arguing that his investigation is based on open-source information, not confidential data. He also says there’s an overriding public interest at stake that eclipses Deripaska’s privacy concerns. Navalny accuses Deripaska of meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko aboard a yacht in August 2016, possibly to discuss Moscow’s interference in the U.S. presidential election. Navalny says Vashukevich’s footage from the excursion is evidence that Deripaska bribed Prikhodko.