Ukraine bans leading Russian Internet sites

Confirming that the relations between Ukraine and Russia are currently at their lowest, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko yesterday signed a decree applying sanctions to 468 legal entities and 1,228 individuals from Russia.

Among the targeted organizations are the two leading Russian Internet groups — Yandex and Mail.Ru Group — the services of which will be made inaccessible from Ukraine.

Thus Ukrainian users will no longer be able to use major social networks Odnoklassniki (OK) and Vkontakte (VK), which are properties of Mail.Ru Group. Neither will they enjoy Yandex’s search, maps, navigation, online education, taxi hailing and other services.

The websites under sanctions are among the most popular in Ukraine. Thus VK is ranked third, while webmail service and search engine Yandex are fourth and fifth, respectively, among Ukraine’s top online resources.

Among the sanctioned companies are also security solution providers Kaspersky Lab and Dr. Web, a number of Russian TV channels, and 1C, a leading Russian enterprise software publisher.

According to the decree, the companies will not be allowed to use and dispose of their property, or to withdraw their money, among other restrictions.

“Regrets” and “disappointment,” but “no financial impact”

In a corporate statement Yandex, which has been developing its services in Ukraine since 2005, underlined that the company had been conducting its local operations “in strict accordance with Ukrainian legislation.”

“We regret that this new legislation affects our 11 million Ukrainian [monthly] users, and the thousands of Ukrainian organizations that use our technologies and services to grow and develop their businesses,” Google’s regional rival added.

Expressing its “disappointment,” Mail.Ru Group saw in the Ukrainian authorities’ move a “clearly politically-driven decision” as well as a paradox as “we see a dramatic increase in usage of VK, OK and Mail.Ru, [which are] Ukraine’s most popular social networks and e-mail services [with] 25 million Ukrainian users.”

“We believe that the Internet has no borders,” stated the group, which has “never participated in politics” and “complies with Ukrainian laws.”

Both Yandex and Mail.Ru Group — which are listed on the NASDAQ and the LSE, respectively — claim that these sanctions will not have any substantial negative impact on their financial results.

Russia’s leading social network, Vkontakte, is also popular in Ukraine with a localized version.

A few Ukrainians’ reactions to the ban

  • Ukrainian-American entrepreneur Evgeniy Rozinskiy: “This is censorship. The same censorship that the Soviet government imposed on its citizens. Why stop at blocking Yandex? Block WordPress, block LiveJournal. Block all news not originating in Ukraine,” (Facebook)
  • IT professional Yaroslav Naumenko: “I am against such restrictions. It’s obvious that today social networks have turned into propaganda hotbed. But there are thousands of small businesses for which the blocking of the social networks is a certain death. What should they do now?” (Facebook)
  • Mykola Kudriavtsev, founder of a law firm: “I don’t understand what to regret about Vkontakte, Mail.Ru, Shittyklassniki (Odnoklassniki). 1C is rushed and stupid. But developing and introducing analogs will take time. And it would be hard to do for 1C, to put it mildly.” (Facebook)
  • Roman Burko, founder of the InformNapalm community: “These sanctions give opportunities to Ukrainian startups. Surely, we have to develop our own IT products [and] gradually push Russia out from our domestic market. I hope it is just the beginning, and that we’ll soon see sanctions against the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.” (Facebook)
Topics: International, Internet, Legal, Legislation & regulation, News, Online media, Online services, Policy making, Search engines, Social networks
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