Apple explains removal of Russia’s largest social network app
Apple confirmed on Wednesday that it had removed the applications of the Russian VK company from its App Store, including the country’s version of Facebook, VKontakte. The US tech giant explained the move by citing alleged links between the company’s developers and “one or more parties” sanctioned by the UK.
In a statement, quoted by The Verge, Apple spokesman Adam Dema claimed that the applications from the VK ecosystem are being distributed “by developers majority-owned or majority-controlled by one or more parties sanctioned by the UK government.”
“In order to comply with these sanctions, Apple terminated the developer accounts associated with these apps, and the apps cannot be downloaded from any App Store, regardless of location,” Dema said.
He added that users who already have the apps installed can continue to use them.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian media regulator, Roskomnadzor, demanded that Apple explain its “discriminatory restrictions” on VK-owned applications, as well as on some other popular apps, including those of Sberbank and Aeroflot. Roskomnadzor emphasized that VKontakte is considered in Russia to be a “socially significant information resource” and, along with mail client Mail.ru, which is also affected, must be pre-installed on mobile devices selling in Russia.
VK, meanwhile, pledged to continue developing and supporting applications for Apple’s iOS, but warned users of possible issues with payments and notifications.
Britain announced its latest round of anti-Russia sanctions on September 26, the day before several VK-owned apps disappeared from the App Store. The restrictions were imposed in response to what the UK calls “illegal sham referendums in Ukraine.” Among other individuals, sanctions targeted 23 top managers of Gazprombank, the bank which has significant interests in the VK, via Gazprom-media and MF Technologies companies.
Another VK stakeholder, insurance giant Sogaz, was sanctioned by the UK government in March, in response to Russia’s ongoing military operation in Ukraine.
VK applications are still available for download on Google’s Play Store.