Russia Forces Apple to Remove Multiple VPN apps from its App Store

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Russia Forces Apple to Remove Multiple VPN apps from its App Store

Apple has taken down 25 VPN applications from the Russian App Store following demands from Russian telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor.

The app removals occurred on July 4, which Roskomnadzor confirmed to Interfax and MediaZona. The apps represent a broad swath of VPN providers, including NordVPN, ProtonVPN, Red Shield VPN, Planet VPN, Hidemy.Name VPN, Le VPN and PIA VPN.

These services were included in the “Unified register” of internet resources prohibited for public distribution in Russia, according to the watchdog’s website.

Apple did not comment.

Russia has been cracking down on VPNs since the invasion of Ukraine in February. One of the first steps was banning VPN advertising ahead of the election in March.

But this is the biggest single move by the Russian government against VPNs to date. And it’s likely to be a significant blow to the VPN providers involved, given that many of them have a significant number of users in Russia.

In a statement, the CEO of Red Shield VPN, Vladislav Zdolnikov, called Apple’s actions “a crime against civil society.”

“Apple’s actions, motivated by a desire to retain revenue from the Russian market, actively support an authoritarian regime,” Zdolnikov said. “This is not just reckless but a crime against civil society.”

Zdolnikov said that Red Shield VPN, as well as other apps that were removed, like HideMyName and Le VPN, “are developed and maintained by people who have an in-depth understanding of Russia’s internet censorship mechanisms.”

“We know how to circumvent these restrictions and are constantly improving our services,” Zdolnikov said. “Despite years of efforts to block our services, they remain accessible to users. It turns out that Apple did this work for the Russian authorities and with better quality.”

In a statement, Konstantin Votinov, the founder of Le VPN, said that the company received a message from Apple on July 4 notifying it of the removal.

“We received a notice from Roskomnadzor via Apple after our app had already been removed, giving us no opportunity to address the concerns,” Votinov said. “This appears to be part of a broader crackdown affecting at least 25 VPN providers in Russia.”

More about the topics: Apple, Russia