Apple announces it has paused the sales of its physical devices in Russia, as the tech industry continues to pushback against the invasion of Ukraine.

Apple said it is “deeply concerned” about the invasion of Ukraine, and a result it has “paused all product sales” in Russia. Apple is also limiting access to its digital services.

Earlier this week, Russia was cut off from Apple Pay and Google Pay, which means that ordinary Russians can no longer use their banks card with Google Pay and Apple Pay.

Apple devices

It should be remembered that last week, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov published an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, asking him to cut Russia off from its products, services, and App Store.

“I appeal to you and I am sure that you will not only hear, but also do everything possible to protect Ukraine, Europe and, finally the entire democratic world from bloody authoritarian aggression – to stop supplying Apple services and products to the Russian Federation, including blocking access to App Store!” wrote Fedorov.

“We are sure that such actions will motivate youth and active population of Russia to proactively stop the disgraceful military aggression,” said Fedorov.

Now Apple has added to tech sanctions against Russia, in a statement published by the Verge.

“We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence,” Apple wrote. “We are supporting humanitarian efforts, providing aid for the unfolding refugee crisis, and doing all we can to support our teams in the region.”

“We have taken a number of actions in response to the invasion,” it said. “We have paused all product sales in Russia. Last week, we stopped all exports into our sales channel in the country. Apple Pay and other services have been limited.”

“RT News and Sputnik News are no longer available for download from the App Store outside Russia,” Apple added. “And we have disabled both traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens.”

“We will continue to evaluate the situation and are in communication with relevant governments on the actions we are taking,” said Apple. “We join all those around the world who are calling for peace.”

Relationship change?

This could signal a change for Apple’s relationship with Russia going forward.

Both Apple and Google in September 2021 were accused of capitulating to pressure from Moscow, after both firms deleted the tactical voting app of Putin critic Alexei Navalny from their online stores.

To be fair, both firms had been under significant pressure from Russian authorities in the days leading up to the country’s parliamentary elections to block access to Navalny’s Smart Voting initiative.

The tactical voting was the brainchild of long term Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and it sought to channel opposition votes toward the strongest opponents of the ruling party, United Russia.

Apple in a regulatory filing in 2019 also admitted that data on Apple users was stored on Russian servers to comply with local laws.

Apple said it was storing the name, address, email and phone numbers of its Apple users in that country.

Tech pushback

But Apple is not the only one. Pushback against Russia continues from other big names in the tech industry.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube this week blocked Russian state-owned media outlets including RT and Sputnik.

Social media firms have also halted advertising revenue payments to Russian state-owned entities.

On Monday Google disabled for Ukraine Google Maps tools providing information about live traffic conditions and how busy places are.

Google said it made the move to protect the safety of local communities after consulting sources including regional authorities.

The tools include the Google Maps traffic layer and live information about how busy places such as stores and restaurants are.

The information is provided based on live, anonymised location data gathered from Google’s Android smartphones.

The company said that while the information would not be accessible globally, traffic data was still being provided to users within the country using turn-by-turn navigation features.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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