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The Iron Curtain: which IT-related services got blocked or left the Russian market?


Whether by the Kremlin’s order or following a wave of companies voluntarily leaving the Russian market, many organizations stopped operating on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Facebook has been hit the hardest by Russian regulations, becoming the first American tech giant to face a full block in the country, followed by Twitter which was met with partial blocks.

The move comes after Facebook’s parent company, Meta, announced its decision to restrict access to state-owned news channels Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik in Europe, which the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Roskomnadzor, counted in “26 cases of discrimination against Russian media.”

“Earlier this week, we announced that we'd be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU. Consistent with that action, and following a request from the UK government, we will also be restricting access to RT and Sputnik in the UK at this time," Meta’s spokesperson told Sky News.

Youtube has also followed through by blocking access to the same channels, as well as channels of Vladimir Solovyev (Russian journalist with a heavy pro-Kremlin rhetoric), and other Russian news channels, such as “Russia One,” “TNT,” “Star,” “Ren TV,” and others, according to Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine's Minister of Culture and Information Policy. Google has also forbidden Russian state media from monetizing their content.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that they are developing tools to “ban the Kremlin’s media machine in the EU.”

Both Youtube and Google have cut off advertisements for Russian users (as well as ads revenues for creators.) Experts suggest that this move is meant to prevent full blocks of the platforms on the territory of the Russian Federation, as many advertisements show the horrors of the war in Ukraine, which Roskomnadzor calls “misinformation.”

“Such advertising messages are shown to Russian YouTube users and contain misinformation aimed at creating a distorted perception of current events among the Russian Internet audience and creating protest moods,” the message on Roskomnadzor’s Telegram channel says.

Tik Tok, OnlyFans, and Netflix are suspending their operations in Russia, with Tik Tok worried over the new law that forbids spreading misinformation about the Russian army. Creators who violate the law can face up to 15 years in jail.

The Chinese company that owns the app, ByteDance Ltd, has suggested in a statement that while the platform can unite people during such tragic times, their concern about the safety of their users and employees remains a priority.

The repercussions for Russian citizens, however, seem to go beyond losing access to favorite platforms. For many, the glooming possibility of the block of Youtube might mean succumbing to state-led news. By dominating the digital discourse, it will become much easier for the Kremlin to spread its agenda.

“This is going to feel like a return to the 1980s for people who lived in that era, because suddenly information is back in the hands of the state,” said Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, according to The New York Times.

Owners of other companies that faced blocks in Russia shared similar feelings. As such, Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs at Meta, suggested that the restriction will cut millions of Russians off from reliable information, silence their voices, and deprive them of communication with families and friends.

Technology corporations and payment networks are temporarily leaving the market

Apple joined a stream of organizations, announcing a pause of release and sale of its products in Russia. It will also ban RT and Sputnik from the company's app store outside the country.

Visa, Mastercard, and American Express will be suspending their operations in Russia, although it seems like the already issued cards should continue working domestically within Russia’s borders. A week before, Mastercard has blocked several financial institutions from its payment network.

“Visa is taking prompt action to ensure compliance with applicable sanctions, and is prepared to comply with additional sanctions that may be implemented,” Visa’s representatives commented in a statement.

Russian banks advised citizens to switch to Russia’s Mir and China’s UnionPay co-badged cards, turning to China. In response, Russians flooded the banks and exchange points in attempts to cash their money out or buy any available currency.

Lithuanian company Paysera has closed Russian accounts and stopped transactions in rubles. Paypal will also be stopping providing its services.

Microsoft, Adobe, DXC Technology, Oracle, Mikrotik, Lenovo, Samsung, Dell, Spotify, HP, and Cisco will all be either completely stopping shipments or temporarily shutting down in Russia. For Miscosoft, HP, Dell, Lenovo, Oracle, and Cisco users, this could result in major cybersecurity concerns, as it’s unclear how patching and updating the system’s software will work. As of the current situation, it seems like updates will not be released for the Russian market, which will likely fuel piracy.

As more IT, streaming, and communications companies announce their leave, Russians turn to VPNs to avoid total isolation. We have gathered a list of the best VPNs for Russia in 2022, including NordVPN, Surfshark, and PrivateVPN.


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