Russia has removed all iOS apps from VK, the second largest tech company in Russia, The Verge has reported. That includes not just the VK social media app that’s the fifth most popular in Russia, but others like Mail.ru and VK Music. The move was made in response to UK sanctions against the Russian government.
VK confirmed that “some VK applications are blocked by Apple, so they are not available for download and update in the App Store,” according to a (Google translated) press release. “Their core functionality will be familiar and stable… [but] there may be difficulties with notifications and payments. VK will continue to develop and support applications for iOS.”
These apps 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.
Apple confirmed that it removed the apps and shut down VK’s developer accounts. “These apps are being distributed by developers majority-owned or majority-controlled by one or more parties sanctioned by the UK government,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “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. Users who have already downloaded these apps may continue to use them.”
Earlier this week, the UK government imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs over the sham referendums held in Ukraine. Included in the list are executives from Gazprombank, a Russian bank with ties to VK. “Today’s sanctions will target those behind these sham votes, as well as the individuals that continue to prop up the Russian regime’s war of aggression,” said UK foreign secretary James Cleverly in a statement.
Russia’s Ministry of Digital Affairs told state media site RT that it’s investigating the reasons for the removal. The apps are still available on Google Play — Engadget has reached out to Google to see if it plans to follow Apple’s lead.
Earlier this year, Apple halted sales of all its products in Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion, while also limiting Apple Pay and pulling apps from outlets like RT and Sputnik. Last year, a Russian law went into effect that required Samsung, Apple and other manufacturers to pre-install Russian apps like VK and Yandex on devices sold there.
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