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Russian municipal official reportedly threatens staff who won't unsubscribe from a critical social-media group

Meduza

Natalia Shakhova, the chief of staff of the Tyumen region’s Golyshmanovsky Municipal District, has ordered her staff to leave a community on VKontakte where users criticize the local authorities, according to a letter allegedly bearing her signature that’s appeared online. “This group is anonymous and contains many fake posts, all of which lean heavily negative,” the letter states.

Shakhova apparently instructed her staff to move all “communications and discussion” to the municipal district’s official VKontakte group, and threatened any employees who remained in the unofficial community with “measures related to a loss of confidence.”

The unofficial group’s administrators say 59 members quit, following Shakhova’s threat. The community only has about 3,350 subscribers, and administrators have appeal to the region’s governor for support.

Shakhova told the website Znak.com that she’s only asked staff to limit their social media activity to the municipal district’s official VKontakte group during work hours. In their free time, she says, they can post wherever they want.

Since 2016, state and municipal employees in Russia have been required to report their social-media accounts to supervisors. Active civil servants and applicants for government jobs must specify the addresses of all websites and accounts where they share personal information. Violators of these policies can be fired or otherwise disciplined.