Russia demands answers after Apple kicks VK apps from App Store

Russian telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor demanded explanations today from Apple regarding the removal of all VK apps, including the app for the country’s largest social network VKontakte, from its App Store on Monday.

Two of the apps removed from the Apple Store, the VKontakte social network application and the Mail.ru mail app, are included on the Russian Ministry of Digital Development’s list of apps with mandatory pre-installation on mobile devices in Russia.

VKontakte is used by more than 75 million users each month, and, based on the watchdog’s stats, it’s the most popular social network in Russia.

“The consequence of the actions of the American corporation was the loss by millions of Russian users of the opportunity to use the VKontakte social network and other applications, including: VK Music, VK Clips, VK Messenger, VK Admin, Mail.ru,” Roskomnadzor said.

“The agency believes that such discriminatory restrictions violate the rights of Russian Internet users to freely receive information and communicate, and are unacceptable.”

VK added in a statement that its apps will still work for iOS users who have already installed them even though they’re no longer available for download and update in Apple’s App Store.

Russians who want to use the VKontakte social network can still do so via the platform’s mobile site and desktop apps.

“Their core functionality will be familiar and stable. There may be difficulties with the work of notifications and payments. VK specialists are working on it,” VK said.

“In recent months, we have implemented key updates to our main products that will allow applications to stay relevant for a long time.”

Roskomnadzor request for explanations follows another one made by Russia’s Ministry of Digital Affairs, which also asked Apple to share the reasons behind its decision to remove VK’s apps from the App Store, per Russian state-affiliated news outlet RT.

Removed due to sanctions

Apple confirmed VK’s removal from its App Store and said it was forced to do so to comply with recent UK-imposed sanctions against Russian entities, some of which are linked to VK (Vladimir Sergeevich Kiriyenko, the company’s CEO, is also under UK sanctions since March).

“These apps are being distributed by developers majority-owned or majority-controlled by one or more parties sanctioned by the UK government,” Apple spokesperson Adam Dema told The Verge.

“In order to comply with these sanctions, Apple terminated the developer accounts associated with these apps, and the apps cannot be downloaded from any App Store, regardless of location. Users who have already downloaded these apps may continue to use them.”

In March, Roskomnadzor announced it banned the Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter social networks in Russia after they booted pro-Kremlin media outlets and news agencies from their platforms and allowed calls for violence against Russian invaders and the Russian and Belarusian presidents.

The Russian Internet watchdog also blocked access to multiple foreign news outlets in the country, including Voice of America, BBC, DW, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, accusing them of allegedly spreading fake news regarding the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

 

Original Posts: Russia demands answers after Apple kicks VK apps from App Store