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Russian anti-corruption campaigners held over blog

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Four bloggers who documented corruption by officials in western Russia have been detained for extremism, local authorities said.

On their site www.ufagub.com, which exposes graft amongst authorities in the Bashkortostan region some 1,160 km (720 miles) east of Moscow, the four posted excerpts from a pamphlet by a prominent government critic.

The pamphlet “contained words and expressions calling for unlawful and extremist acts,” regional investigators said in a statement.

It said Sergei Orlov, Nikolai Shvetsov, Konstantin Nesterov and Igor Kuchumov were detained under a law for inciting hatred.

On its site, www.ufagub.com has posted statements from linguists who say there is no evidence of extremist language in the document in question.

The pamphlet, which has since been removed from the site, was written by Aryat Dilmukhametov. He has been detained several times for campaigning against Bashkortostan’s leader Murtaza Rakhimov, a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

It was not immediately clear if Dilmukhametov had been detained over the pamphlet.

Human rights groups say vocal criticism of the government in Russia is a risky affair and that attacks on journalists and activists are on the rise and often go unpunished.

Last week an anti-corruption activist was attacked by a group of men who shot him in the mouth with a stun gun in a town near Moscow. The assault came less than two weeks after Chechen human rights campaigner Natalia Estemirova was murdered.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, cultivating an image as a liberal, has said he wants to increase openness in society and reduce lawlessness.

Though critics praised him for blocking a bill which would virtually make any criticism of officials a criminal offence, they say the Russian situation on civil society has not substantially changed.

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