Ukraine bans Russian internet firms over hacking fears
Ukraine will block access to the country's most popular social networking sites and other Russian-based web businesses under new sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and the war in east Ukraine.
Access to Yandex, a Russian equivalent of Google that provides search engines, maps and other popular tools, and social media sites Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, will be banned under a decree signed by Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, yesterday. The decree banned Ukrainian web hosts from linking to the Russian websites, effective immediately.
The decision was described in a decree posted on the presidential website as part of economic sanctions against Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014 and has sent weapons, equipment, and troops to support the separatists in the war in eastern Ukraine.
However, some Ukrainian officials have also described it as a national security measure.
"The servers of these Russian social networks... store the personal data of Ukrainian users and information on their movements, contacts, communications," Volodymyr Ariev, an MP from Mr Poroshenko's political faction, said on Facebook.
Other websites blocked under the order include those of the cyber security firms Kaspersky Lab and DrWeb.
The decrees also impose asset freezes and broadcast bans on a range of Russian television channels. It is not clear how Ukraine will enforce the ban.
About 60pc of Ukrainian internet users are active on Vkontakte, a survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology found last year.
About 50pc use Odnoklassniki and 40pc use Facebook, the same survey found.
Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the State Duma, Russia's lower house, called the Ukrainian move "destructive and unlawful".
"Everything is done to forcibly break Ukraine's citizens from Russia's information space," he said.
He did not say whether Moscow would consider taking retaliatory measures.
In comments to Russian newspaper 'Kommersant', Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the sanctions a "manifestation of politically motivated censorship".
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations from Kiev it has been waging a "cyber war" against Ukraine.
It also denies accusations President Vladimir Putin is fuelling the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine by supporting rebels with troops and weapons.