It’s fair to say that in light of the Syria situation, the Skripal poisoning, and yet another government-backed cyberattack, Russia’s relationship with the west isn’t particularly warm right now. But that hasn’t stopped the country from formally asking Google and Apple to remove the Telegram app from their respective app stores.
The long-running legal battle between state communications regulator Roskomnadzor and the encrypted messaging app came to a head last week when a court ordered Telegram blocked in Russia.
It reportedly took the court just 18 minutes to come to a decision, which was a result of the app’s owners’ refusal to share its encryption keys with government agencies, such as the Federal Security Service (FSB), thereby allowing them to access users’ messages.
Telegram tried to circumvent the ban by moving some of its operations to Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud servers over the weekend. But Roskomnadzor responded by banning more than 1.8 million IP addresses belonging to the tech giants yesterday. By doing so, Roskomnadzor also blocked a number of legitimate services, including online games, mobile apps, and cryptocurrency services. A similar situation occurred when Roskomnadzor told ISPs to block 15 million IP addresses as way of taking down walkie talkie app Zello a few weeks ago. Most of those also belonged to Amazon, which led to the company asking Zello not to use its servers.
Roskomnadzor hopes to prevent more people downloading Telegram by asking Apple and Google to remove all related apps from their regional app stores. Neither company has commented on the request, so it’s unclear whether they’ll agree—or if they’ll face any consequences for failing to comply.
Some Russian Telegram users, including members of government agencies, are skirting the ban by using VPNs. But Alexander Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor, said virtual private networks would also be blocked if they are found to be connecting users to banned services.