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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's most powerful business lobby moved to clamp down on Skype and its peers this week, telling lawmakers that the Internet phone services are a threat to Russian businesses and to national security.
In partnership with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's political party, the lobby created a working group to draft legal safeguards against what they said were the risks of Skype and other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone services.
VoIP software has used the Internet to let hundreds of millions of people talk long-distance for free, or at far cheaper rates than traditional service providers can offer.
At a meeting of the lobby this week, telecom executives portrayed the most popular VoIP programmes like Skype and Icq as encroaching foreign entities that the government must control.
"Without government restrictions, IP telephony causes certain concerns about security," the lobby's press release said. "Most of the service operators working in Russia, such as Skype and Icq, are foreign. It is therefore necessary to protect the native companies in this sector and so forth."
Skype was not immediately available for comment.
In a presentation posted on the lobby's Web site, Vice President of TTK, a telecoms unit of state-owned Russian Railways, Vitaly Kotov, called on regulators to stop VoIP services from causing "a likely and uncontrolled fall in profits for the core telecom operators."
Valery Ermakov, deputy head of Russia's No.3 mobile phone firm MegaFon, drove the point home with a picture of two hands in handcuffs, the caption running, "protect investments and fight VoIP services."