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What just happened? The Kremlin has told staff involved in President Vladimir Putin's 2024 re-election campaign to get rid of their iPhones before the end of this month over fears that western intelligence agencies could be using them for surveillance purposes. Those who would rather not throw their expensive handset away have been advised to "give it to the kids."
Russian publication Kommersant reports that employees of the Kremlin's internal political bloc - the Russian presidential administration's domestic policy, public projects, State Council, and IT departments - were informed that they must get rid of their iPhones before April. Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy head of Russia's presidential administration, made the announcement during a seminar held in early March in the Moscow region.
The Kremlin reportedly believes that iPhones are easier to hack and more susceptible to espionage by western spies than other smartphones. "iPhone is everything. Either throw it away or give it to the kids. Everyone will have to do this in March," said one source [Google translated].
Sergei Kiriyenko, not an iPhone fan
The paper writes that the decision is part of a movement to abandon American technology in favor of more secure devices that can't be hacked by the west. The Kremlin may purchase new phones for its employees to make it easier for them to give up US tech, writes Kommersant.
The staff were told to replace Cupertino's devices with Android-based smartphones or those with operating systems developed in China. They may also use Aurora, the Linux-based smartphone OS developed by Russian company Open Mobile Platform, a subsidiary of PJSC Rostelecom.
Political scientist Nikolai Mironov told Kommersant that the iPhone ban was purely for security reasons. He said the request was a pragmatic solution and not related to politics.
Reuters writes that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he could not confirm the report. "Smartphones should not be used for official business," Peskov told reporters. "Any smartphone has a fairly transparent mechanism, no matter what operating system it has – Android or iOS. Naturally, they are not used for official purposes."
Kommersant notes that Russia wants to build a domestic mobile ecosystem built on "technologies independent of Western IT giants." It cites Aurora as an example of this policy.
Russian officials were previously told to use domestic messaging platforms exclusively. They were also advised to use the Russian-made Trueconf instead of Zoom for video conferencing.
Vladimir Putin reportedly refuses to use smartphones, though Peskov says the Russian president does use the internet on occasion.
Center image: IAEA Imagebank