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Kremlin’s order of old-fashioned typewriters sparks media frenzy

Published time: July 12, 2013 01:05
Reuters / Lisi Niesner

Reuters / Lisi Niesner

An order of old-fashioned typewriters from the Russian Federal Guard Service (FSO) has sparked a media storm, with assumptions that the low-tech equipment purchase was prompted by recent US intelligence leaks surrounding the NSA surveillance program.

The FSO, a body tasked with protecting Russia’s president and other high-ranking officials, has issued an order of 20 electric portable typewriters, according to an announcement on the state procurement agency website, zakupki.gov.ru.

The agency has ordered typewriters capable of both Russian and Latin typeface. The equipment is to have been produced no earlier than 2012, with total cost just over 486,000 rubles (US$15,000).

The news triggered a media frenzy, with many journalists assuming the move was connected with the Kremlin’s concerns over the revelations leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden.

"After scandals surrounding the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the [revelations] by Edward Snowden, and reports about Dmitry Medvedev being listened on during his visit to the G20 summit in London, it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents,” an unnamed FSO source told Russia’s Izvestia newspaper.

The news was quickly picked up by the international media, with USA TODAY’s headline reading, “Spooked by NSA, Russia reverts to paper documents.” The Guardian's headline read, “Russian guard service reverts to typewriters after NSA leaks.”

However, a source from the guard service told RT that all Russian special services have always used typewriters. He said that it was simply time to buy new ones because the old equipment was out of date.

“It’s not something unusual...the time came to change them. Everyone has these typewriters – the Emergencies Ministry, Ministry of Defense, every special service has them,” the source said.

Another source confirmed to Itar-Tass news agency that typewriters have always been used for work and it is “a regular practice to provide information security.”

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