(Adds Google facing new fine)
By Alexander Marrow
April 18 (Reuters) – Russia is “not yet” planning to block Wikipedia, its minister of digital affairs said on Tuesday as a Moscow court handed the online encyclopaedia another fine for failing to remove content Russia deems illegal.
Wikipedia is one of the few surviving independent sources of information in Russian since a state crackdown on online content intensified after Moscow sent its armed forces into Ukraine.
“We are not blocking Wikipedia yet, there are no such plans for now,” Interfax news agency quoted digital affairs minister Maksut Shadaev as saying.
Wikipedia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Shadaev’s remarks.
On Tuesday, a Moscow court fined Wikipedia owner Wikimedia Foundation 800,000 roubles ($9,777) for what Russian agencies said was a failure to remove information considered to be promoting train hopping, where a person rides on the side or top of a train.
Wikimedia has previously said information that Russian authorities complained about was well sourced and in line with Wikipedia standards.
Russia has for years sought to launch a home-grown online encyclopaedia, without making much progress.
Russia has similarly struggled to establish a comparable video hosting service to Alphabet’s YouTube, which remains available while other foreign social media platforms have been blocked.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said on Tuesday a court had ordered Google to pay 1 billion roubles for blocking the Duma TV YouTube channel.
“Today, the bailiff service has started seizing property, in search of these funds,” Volodin said.
Google in Russia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Interfax news agency later said Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor was seeking to fine Google up to 4 million roubles for refusing to remove content banned in Russia. The case will be heard in a Moscow court on April 20.
Last September a Russian court upheld a fine of 21.7 billion roubles against Google’s Russian subsidiary for repeated failure to delete information related to Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine.
The subsidiary filed for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account. The U.S. tech giant has paused commercial operations in Russia, but free services remain available.
Russia also fined Amazon’s Twitch 4 million roubles for failing to delete “false information” about Moscow’s campaign. Twitch had no immediate comment. ($1 = 81.8255 roubles) (Additional reporting by David Ljunggren Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)