Putin’s government is pressuring Apple to remove Telegram from its App Store as part of their continued effort to curb the use of the popular encrypted messenger.
Russia’s telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor has threatened Apple – warning that if it does not remove Telegram, the App Store itself could be blocked throughout Russia.
The threats come in between revelations that Telegram’s use in Russia remains high despite Putin’s attempts to block it. The blockade is in place because of Telegram founder Pavel Durov’s refusal to give Putin encryption keys that would allow Putin to snoop on communications.
Kremlin reports ISIS uses Telegram to plan attacks. This is a fact that sparked the widespread use of Telegram in Russia in the first place.
Telegram lost its recent court appeal but refuses to hand over the encryption keys, claiming it doesn’t have them.
Block or Be Blocked
Roskomnadzor wants Telegram removed from the App Store and also has requested Apple to stop serving Russian Telegram users push notifications. The document reads: “To avoid possible actions by Roskomnadzor to disrupt the functioning of the above services, Apple, Inc. we ask you to inform us in the shortest possible time about further actions of the Company aimed at solving these problem issues.”
So despite Kremlin’s efforts, it appears that many Russians are still using VPNs and Telegram.
Until now, Putin’s government has blocked IP addresses used by Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services in efforts to shut down Telegram. Now, Roskomnadzor has Apple in its sights.
Why the Commotion?
Putin has insisted that he wants access to Telegram messages for national security, but the general perception is that he wants to snoop on political opponents and dissidents as it is believed that opponents often use Telegram to communicate.
News recently broke about French authorities charging a suspect with scheming a terror attack. In that incident, Paris police cited messages sent with Telegram as evidence in the case. This has led to security experts questioning whether French authorities have a Telegram backdoor (or access to the keys directly from Telegram or via UK intelligence/14 Eyes).
If that is true, then one can’t help but wonder whether Durov is secretly working with British, French, and perhaps other government agencies, which would mean there is more to Russia’s Telegram blockade than meets the eye.
Russia has given Apple a one-month ultimatum.
Russia also blocked another 50 VPN services in May to further restrict Telegram use.