Ukraine government calls on major tech companies to cut off Russians – with no end in sight

Ukraine’s digital minister has called on some of the most powerful technology companies in the world to remove Russia’s access to online services.

Mykhailo Fedorov has Samsung to block access to Samsung Pay and the Galaxy Store to send a message against “bloody authoritarian aggression”.

Mr Federov has also called on Visa and Mastercard to completely exit from the country alongside Apple Pay and Google Pay, and even for Sony and Microsoft to remove Xbox and PlayStation support from Russian citizens to prove that they “support human values”.

The calls come as other technology giants have already acted against Russia. RT, Sputnik and other channels have disappeared from YouTube, and Meta – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram – has launched a ‘special operations center’ to combat misinformation about the conflict.

Apple suspended the sales of all products in Russia, with RT and Sputnik News no longer available in the App Store.

The multinational tech company also said it has disabled both traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine “as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens”, something that Google has also done with its own Maps app.

However, while the inconvenience this could cause to President Vladimir Putin is less visible, the bans have drastically impacted regular Russian citizens – with images of long waits at train stations due to the actions of large technology companies.

Mr Federov has even gone as far as to demand that Russia is sectioned off from the global internet entirely, having penned a letter yesterday calling for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Center (RIPE NCC) to “introduce strict sanctions against the Russian Federation in the field of DNS regulation”.

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However, that request was dismissed after many criticized it for the lack of impact it would have on Russian government and military. “As you know, the Internet is a decentralized system. No one actor has the ability to control it or shut it down, ”ICANN chief Göran Marby wrote in his response to him.

“Our mission does not extend to taking punitive actions, issuing sanctions, or restricting access against segments of the Internet — regardless of the provocations,” he added. “Essentially, ICANN has been built to ensure that the Internet works, not for its coordination role to be used to stop it from working.”

As well as sanctions from technology companies, numerous economic sanctions on Russia have had a devastating effect on the country’s economy – with one economist drinking on national television to the death of the stock market. There are also concerns about the cultural impact these decisions could have on normal Russian citizens, at risk of being smeared as “trashy, evil and corrupt”.

Currently, it is unclear how much more Ukraine will call on international governments and technology companies to do while the war is still ongoing. The Independent has reached out to the Ukrainian government for more information.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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