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Apple gives in to Russia, removes VPN apps from App Store

Apple has reportedly removed several VPN apps from its App Store in Russia following a request from the Russian government’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor.

As per TechCrunch, this action comes amid increasing control and censorship of the internet in Russia, where citizens often use VPNs to bypass restrictions and access blocked content.

Last week, Russia’s news agency Interfax reported that Apple had removed about 25 VPN apps from its Russian App Store after Roskomnadzor demanded their removal.

On Monday, two VPN services, Le VPN and Red Shield VPN, confirmed to TechCrunch that they had received notification letters from Apple about the decision.

The letter sent to Red Shield VPN, shared by the company’s CEO Vladislav Zdolnikov, stated that the app was being removed due to its content being deemed illegal in Russia, which violated the App Review Guidelines. Another source familiar with the situation also provided the same letter to TechCrunch.

Apple’s letter emphasized that apps must comply with legal requirements in any location where they are available, placing the responsibility on developers to ensure their apps conform to local laws. The reason for the app removals was linked to a particular article in Russia’s federal law, as cited by Roskomnadzor.

This move is part of a broader crackdown on VPNs in Russia, which included a ban on VPN advertising ahead of the country’s elections in March.

Zdolnikov expressed disappointment, stating that despite their efforts to circumvent censorship, Apple’s actions had effectively aided Russian authorities in blocking these services.

Le VPN’s founder, Konstantin Votinov, shared that his company received notice from Apple on July 4 about the app’s removal following Roskomnadzor’s flagging of the app’s description as infringing content. He highlighted that they could not address the concerns before the removal.

Apple’s App Store remains operational despite halting hardware exports and some services to Russia in protest of its invasion of Ukraine.

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