Putin says consumer rights group warning Russians not to visit Crimea serves foreign interests

President Vladimir Putin says a consumer rights group that has cautioned Russians against traveling to Crimea is serving foreign interests.

Putin was referring to the Society for Protection of Consumer Rights, a little-known Russian watchdog that has caused uproar with its advice to Russians to stay away from the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.

It warned that Russians visiting Crimea without Ukrainian authorities' permission could face criminal punishment in Ukraine. It argued that Russia's annexation of Crimea violated both international law and treaties Russia signed with Ukraine.

The group previously had focused on monitoring the quality of goods and services and hadn't been involved in politics.

Russian prosecutors on Monday opened a probe against it and the government communications watchdog has blocked its website.