Putin calls for crackdown on extremists

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered prosecutors to focus on fighting extremists, whom he said were operating brazenly and increasing their activities.

"You should focus your attention on issues of fighting extremism all the time. Last year the number of such crimes grew almost by 12 percent on 2011," Putin told an assembly of prosecutors in Moscow.

He did not say which groups he was referring to but the justice ministry's list of materials banned because they are deemed to be extremist includes Scientologist and Jehovah's Witness literature as well as Islamic texts.

A court has also defined as extremist videos of punk band Pussy Riot, which has had two members jailed for a protest in a church against Putin.

"We see that a number of radical groups behave brazenly and provocatively. They hold public events, promote criminal ideas on the Internet and practically openly recruit their followers," said Putin, a former KGB agent in East Germany,

"Your direct duty is to react promptly to attempts to foment ethnic and religious hatred, propaganda of xenophobia and jingoism. You must act consistently, based on the norms of the law, not allowing any double standards or prejudices."

"But you must act decisively," he said.

In a crackdown on the opposition protest movement, the Russian parliament passed laws that allow the government to shut down websites that fail to remove extremist material without going through a court.

Government media watchdog Roskomnadzor said Tuesday that it had issued warnings to the website of Argumenty i Fakty weekly newspaper and news website Polit.ru for posting a video of Pussy Riot's anti-Putin "Punk Prayer" in a Moscow cathedral last year.

The watchdog has the power ask a court to close down a media outlet if it receives two warnings in one year.