MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s telecoms regulator on Wednesday demanded an explanation from Apple (NASDAQ 🙂 after apps run by Russian state-controlled tech company VK were removed from the US company’s app store.
The regulator, Roskomnadzor, has been a thorn in the side of foreign tech companies, imposing fines for data storage violations and for failing to remove content Russia considers illegal – controversies that have escalated since Moscow sent its armed forces into Ukraine in February.
VK runs VKontakte, which has more than 75 million monthly users and is the largest social network in Russia, often compared to Facebook (NASDAQ :). Along with VK’s Mail.ru email service, Vkontakte must be pre-installed on mobile devices sold in Russia.
Roskomnadzor said that Apple’s actions deprived millions of Russians of access to VK applications and demanded clarification of 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 receive information and communicate freely, are unacceptable,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement.
However, Russia itself has limited its citizens’ access to information by forcing all important independent Russian media outlets to shut down and block US social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (NYSE:).
VK tightened its grip on the Russian internet space this month by finalizing a deal to buy a rival company Yandex (NASDAQ 🙂 news aggregator, Zen content platform and yandex.ru homepage.
VK said on Tuesday that its apps, including Vkontakte, already installed on smartphones continued to operate, and that it was continuing to develop and support apps for Apple’s iOS operating system.