Ukraine blocks popular Russian social networks

 16 May 2017 - 14:15

Ukraine blocks popular Russian social networks

AFP

Kiev: Ukraine on Tuesday blocked Russia's most popular social networks and an internet search engine in response to the Kremlin's alleged backing of a three-year separatist war in the east.

The decision sparked an immediate outcry from Ukrainian internet users and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom group.

Some also pointed out that President Petro Poroshenko himself was an avid user of two of the Russian networks he had banned.

"Hello, North Korea," 112 rolling news channel editor Vitaliy Prudyus wrote on Facebook.

The presidential decree bars access to VK -- often referred to as Russia's Facebook and formerly known as VKontakte -- and Ukraine's version of the popular Yandex search engine.

The decision also covers the Mail.ru email provider and the Odnoklassniki (Classmates) social network.

A separate safety provision applies to the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab and Dr.Web cyber security and anti-virus firms.

The provision remains in effect for three years.

Several social media users pointed to the irony of Poroshenko having his own VK and Odnoklassniki accounts that he last updated when Kiev staged the Eurovision Song Contest final on Saturday night.

A January 2016 ranking conducted by the Kiev-based Genius business consulting company placed VK and Mail.ru as the second and third most popular Ukrainian websites after Google.

More Russians banned 

Kiev has been gradually expanding its list of outlawed Russian products and people barred for entering the country for either voicing support of the Kremlin's March 2014 annexation of Crimea or the self-proclaimed independence of Ukraine's east.

Numerous Russian television series and movies have been thrown off the airwaves and the silver screen. The blacklist also covers some books.

The West strongly supports Kiev's assertion that Russia has both plotted and backed the revolt in the eastern Lugansk and Donetsk industrial regions that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

The war began less than two months after massive pro-EU street protests toppled a Kremlin-backed president in February 2014.

Both Kiev and the West see the conflict as Russia's retribution for the loss of its ally.

But human rights groups have criticised Ukraine's decision to apply its sanctions against various forms of cultural entertainment as a violation of free speech.

"VK provided a means of communication for Ukrainian individual entrepreneurs who had pages and advertised their goods," Ukraine's Reporters Without Borders representative Oksana Romanyuk wrote on Facebook.

"And this is not to mention the millions of citizens who used it to have a social life," she wrote.

Poroshenko also expanded the number of Russian citizens and Kremlin supporters from other countries who can no longer enter Ukraine to 1,228 from 682.

The sanctions already in place nearly overshadowed the Eurovision television extravaganza that concluded this weekend with the victory of Portuguese crooner Salvador Sobral.

Ukraine banned Russia's contestant for staging a performance in Crimea a year after its annexation.

Russia responded by deciding not to air the kitschy contest and organisers have warned Ukraine that it may be forbidden from taking part in upcoming events over its actions.