Russia demands Apple explain after VK apps removed from App Store By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Apple logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia’s communications regulator on Wednesday demanded an explanation from Apple (NASDAQ:) after applications operated by the Russian state-controlled tech firm VK were removed from the U.S. firm’s App Store.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, has been a thorn in the side of foreign tech firms, issuing fines over data storage violations and for failures to remove content Russia deems illegal – disputes that have escalated since Moscow sent its armed forces into Ukraine in February.

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

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

Apple did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

“The agency believes that such discriminatory restrictions, which violate the right of Russian internet users to freely receive information and communicate, are unacceptable,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

Russia has, however, itself limited its citizens’ access to information by forcing all significant independent Russian media to close and blocking the U.S. social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (NYSE:).

VK tightened its grip on Russia’s internet space this month by finalising a deal to buy rival Yandex (NASDAQ:)’s news aggregator, content platform Zen and yandex.ru homepage.

VK on Tuesday said its apps, including Vkontakte, already installed on smartphones continued to work, and that it was continuing to develop and support apps for Apple’s iOS operating system.

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