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Skype's a threat to Russian national security? So say Russian phone companies

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MOSCOW – Russian telecommunications companies are lobbying Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to restrict the use of Skype and other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software that makes long-distance calling free or at most cost pennies.

But unlike other countries where phone companies have tried to ban the pesky new technology on grounds of unfair competition, such as Germany, Russian corporations have an additional argument they think will appeal to a national security-conscious Kremlin. They warn that the foreign-made VoIP software, easily downloaded from the Internet, is a threat to national security because it is resistant to eavesdropping by Russia's intelligence agencies.

The growing use of these programs by Russian citizens "without any control by the state is unavoidably leading to fears about security problems," says a statement by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the country's leading business lobby, quoted in the Internet daily Gazeta.ru. "The majority of brands operating in Russia, such as Skype and Icq, are of foreign origin and therefore we need to ensure the defense of national producers in this sector," it went on.

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