HomeBusinessRussia demands Apple explain removing VK from App Store

Russia demands Apple explain removing VK from App Store

  • This content was produced in Russia, where the law limits coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.

MOSCOW, Sept. 28 (Reuters) – Russia’s communications regulator on Wednesday demanded a statement from Apple (AAPL.O) after applications of Russian state-controlled technology company VK (VKCOq.L) were removed from the US company’s App Store.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, is a thorn in the side of foreign tech companies, which is fined for data storage violations and for failing to remove content Russia deems illegal — disputes that have escalated since Moscow sent its military forces to Ukraine in February.

VK runs Vkontakte, which is Russia’s largest social network with over 75 million monthly users, often compared to Facebook. Along with VK’s email service Mail.ru, Vkontakte must be pre-installed on mobile devices sold in Russia.

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Roskomnadzor said Apple’s actions had deprived millions of Russians of access to UK apps and demanded it explain its decision.

Apple said it follows the laws in the jurisdictions where the company operates. Apple said the apps in question were distributed by majority-owned or majority-controlled developers by one or more parties sanctioned by the UK government.

Regardless of location, the apps cannot be downloaded from an App Store, said Apple, which terminated the developer accounts associated with the apps to comply with UK sanctions.

The state-controlled UK tightened its grip on the Russian internet space this month by striking a deal to buy rival Yandex’s news aggregator (YNDX.O), content platform Zen and yandex.ru homepage.

UK CEO Vladimir Kiriyenko is under British sanctions along with his father Sergei Kiriyenko, who is President Vladimir Putin’s first deputy chief of staff.

Roskomnadzor called the restrictions “discriminatory” and said they violate Russian internet users’ right to free information and communications.

However, Russia itself has restricted its citizens’ access to information by forcing all major independent Russian media outlets to shut down and block US social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

VK said on Tuesday that its apps, including Vkontakte, will continue to work if already installed on smartphones, and will continue to develop and support apps for Apple’s iOS operating system.

Roskomnadzor also asked Apple to explain the removal of other apps, including those of airline Aeroflot (AFLT.MM) and a number of banks such as top lenders Sberbank (SBER.MM) and VTB (VTBR.MM).

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Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Trevelyan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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