Type of site
|Available in||Russian, English, Ukrainian, Arabic, Turkish|
|Created by||Movladi Udugov|
The Kavkaz Center (Russian: Кавказ-центр) (KC, literally Caucasus center) is a privately run website/portal which aims to be "a Chechen internet agency which is independent, international and Islamic". The stated mission of the site is to report events related to Chechnya and also to "provide international news agencies with news-letters, background information and assistance in making independent journalistic work in Caucasus".
Since its inception it has broadcast views supporting independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and later the Caucasian Emirate and the mujahideen worldwide. The website is published in five languages: English, Arabic, Ukrainian, Russian, and Turkish.
Founded in March 1999 in the city of Grozny in Chechnya, the KC was organized and headed by Movladi Udugov, former Minister of Information of Chechnya and then-leader of the "national information service". The organisation is banned in Russia. According to Dr Greg Simons from Swedish National Defence College, "not all of the content on Kavkazcenter can be classified as being extremist and dangerous. However, some material that appears on the website clearly is falling into the realm of extremist and terrorist material." On the other hand, David McDuff, an editor with Prague Watchdog, has written that the Kavkaz Center is "thought by some observers to be a disinformation center run with the help of Russia’s special services."
The Kavkaz Center caused a major controversy in September 2004 when the server hosting it, located in Lithuania, was shut down by Lithuanian authorities (under pressure from Russian secret services) on hate speech charges, after a letter from the Chechen rebel commander Shamil Basayev claiming responsibility for the Beslan school hostage crisis and a series of photos from the preparations for the attack were published on the site. The website subsequently re-opened on a webserver at the Internet service provider PRQ, in Sweden, and then in April 2008 it moved to an Estonian server, supplied by the AS Starman.
After the October 2005 Nalchik attack in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, the Kavkaz Center alleged that it was targeted by the FSB in a campaign to discredit them, which consisted on a massive worldwide distribution of spam mail, which supposedly came from the Kavkaz Center website. After receiving several DoS attacks, a message was published on the Kavkaz Center homepage, stating that they never sent the spam people received, and that it was a campaign to discredit them due their points of view. Another spam attack campaign was active again on November 29, 2005, soliciting donations to a bank account in Sweden.
In 2006, Russian journalist and regular KC contributor Boris Stomakhin was sentenced by a Moscow court to five years in prison for "fueling religious hatred". Another Russian regular contributor, Pavel Lyuzakov, was sentenced to two years in a prison colony for illegally acquiring and possessing a firearm in 2005.
While the majority of the website focused on Russian stories and ideas, there were also extensive links to "reporting" dealing with jihadist terrorism (which the site supported) and Israel (which it did not). One such story involved an alleged expose of a dormant Russia-Iraqi-Chechen plan to destroy Israel via an invasion starting in Iraq and going through Jordan, called "Dudayev's Plan". Another supported a jihadist who murdered French Jews and soldiers in 2012 before being killed by French security forces, outright lying that 18 out of 24 students at a French school supported a teacher who said a prayer for the dead jihadist and said he was framed for the attack by Nicolas Sarkozy (in reality, 18 out of 24 students had LEFT the classroom in disgust and reported the teacher to the school's head office; the teacher, Margaret Collin, was later permanently dismissed from teaching in France).
Starting on 6 June 2012 and continuing for over two months, Kavkaz Center was the target of a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that peaked at 45 million packets per second. The attack was said to be among the largest on record and took the agency's main Sweden-based server and mirror sites offline in July 2012. Russia has also pressured Swedish authorities to take down the web site which is hosted by PRQ, a company owned by the founders of The Pirate Bay.
According to rulings of the judicial bodies of the Russian Federation, materials published on the site are extremist and incite ethnic hatred. It was therefore included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials per Russian internet censorship law and blocked for viewing from Russia