Vladimir Putin and a bear
Vladimir Putin has long been criticised by independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and it's journalists have faced threats and even death Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A Russian newspaper that has long been a thorn in the side of President Vladimir Putin may be forced to close after printing part of a swearword.

Russia's communications censor Roskomnadzor issued a written warning on 20 July to Novaya Gazeta's editor and founder for publishing "obscene language".

The word was from an excerpt the paper published of its Far East correspondent Vasily Avchenko's book Crystal In A Transparent Frame, which is shortlisted for a book award.

The word, which appeared on page 20 of the newspaper, is synonymous with "carelessness" and was not printed in full, but rather represented by dots replacing most of the letters. Nevertheless, Vadim Ampelonsky, a spokesman for the authority points out to Russian website Lenizdat.Ru "it clearly was read".

This is the second warning that the paper has faced in the past 12 months. Roskomnadzor is now entitled to terminate the newspaper's mass media license. Ampelonsky pointed out that the violation was different from the first and "non-systemic".

The first warning was issued over a 10 October 2014 article that was found to be "extremist". The piece titled "If we are not the West, who are we?" by Yulya Latynina later had sections removed from it at the request of Roskomnadzor.

The paper tried to challenge the decision in court, but Moscow's Tagansky Court upheld it.

Russian politics and society are often dissected in the pages of Novaya Gazeta in incisive investigative pieces. On 7 October 2006 the assassination of Novaya Gazeta journalist and Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya drew international attention. She was extremely critical of Putin's war in Chechnya, and warned he was establishing a dictatorship.

Recently the paper has cast Russia's involvement in Ukraine in an unfavourable light, interviewing an injured 20-year-old Russian soldier who was fighting on the front lines in the country and other soldiers who said they were abandoned there.

"This latest supposed transgression seems totally arbitrary and unpredictable," said Halya Coynash from the anti-propaganda NGO StopFake.org, it's "a warning in itself that the publication should watch its step".

Chess legend and Putin critic Garry Kasparov also revealed this week that he has been airbrushed from a Russian sports history book.