Apple Restores Russian Social Network VKontakte and Mail.ru to App Store

Apple has restored Russian apps for social network VKontakte and webmail provider Mail.ru to the App Store, three weeks after removing them and other VK-owned apps in response to UK sanctions (via The Guardian).

vk logo
The two services, which could be described as home-grown versions of Facebook and Gmail, were pulled following a package of sanctions enacted by the British government that affected tens of executives at Gazprombank, a Russian bank with links to VK. The sanctions were in response to sham referenda staged by Russian authorities in occupied areas of Ukraine.

"These apps are being distributed by developers majority-owned or majority-controlled by one or more parties sanctioned by the UK government," Apple said in a statement at the time.

It wasn't immediately clear why Apple restored the apps, since ownership of VKontake and Mail.ru has not changed since the apps were removed, and the leadership of Gazprombank and Sberbank remain sanctioned by the British government. However, it's possible Apple's decision was related to the use of both services by activists.

The apps re-appeared on App Stores globally on Monday, as flagged by monitoring project Apple Censorship. Benjamin Ismail, the project's director, told The Guardian:

The only thing we can say for sure is that, once again, Apple implements its App Stores policies in total opacity, thinking it will not be held accountable for its actions. While we are glad to see those apps restored, as some activists and members of civil society organisations were still using them when they were removed, we condemn Apple for its continuous, erratic, and non-transparent way of managing content in the App Store.

Both VKontake and Mail.ru apps were included in a list that Apple was legally obliged to show to new iPhone owners in Russia for download during initial setup, until Apple stopped selling its products in the country.

Update: A spokesperson for Apple shared the following statement:

The apps from this developer were removed from the App Store, as required by law, after multiple requests were made to the developer to provide documentation to verify that they were not in violation of UK sanctions. Subsequent to the removal, the developer has provided the requisite information verifying that they are not majority owned or controlled by a sanctioned entity. Thus, the apps have been reinstated to the App Store.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

tubular Avatar
18 months ago
If it helps the Russians to organize and overthrow Putin, I’m all for it. Preferably before he’s bombed every Ukrainian power plant, apartment block, and hospital.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
leman Avatar
18 months ago
I am appalled that Apple even still operates in Russia.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
genovelle Avatar
18 months ago
I’m really puzzled at how the same party that cheered the loudest and proclaimed Ronald a political god for his part in the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, could Flipflop 180 degrees and support candidates that support Putin’s effort to recreate the Soviet Union by force and political interference.

A former top Soviet KGB officer skilled in propaganda is at the helm of a dictatorship.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sirozha Avatar
18 months ago
Why?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nt5672 Avatar
18 months ago
It is good to hear both sides regardless of your political persuasion. Banning speech never does anyone any good, except for corrupt political leaders.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Skyscraperfan Avatar
18 months ago
If Apple blocks an app for any reason except fraud or cyber security, it is just pure censorship. If it is my phone, it should be my choice which apps I install. I still remember when Apple threatened a German newspaper app with blocking because it contained nudity. So Apple treats its customers like kids who should be protected from seeing female nipples.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

Six Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Thursday February 22, 2024 4:20 am PST by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models concurrently, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different, and already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
iPhone Notch

Apple Explored These Notch and Dynamic Island Designs for iPhones

Friday February 23, 2024 2:05 pm PST by
With the iPhone 14 Pro models in 2022, Apple introduced the Dynamic Island, which can morph and expand to display system alerts, sports scores, and a variety of other information. The feature makes the space surrounding the front camera and Face ID sensors useful compared to the notch on older iPhone models. Apple explored a variety of ideas for the iPhone's notch area over the years before...
General Apps Messages

Apple Announces 'Groundbreaking' New Security Protocol for iMessage

Wednesday February 21, 2024 6:00 am PST by
Apple today announced a new post-quantum cryptographic protocol for iMessage called PQ3. Apple says this "groundbreaking" and "state-of-the-art" protocol provides "extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks." Apple believes the PQ3 protocol's protections "surpass those in all other widely deployed messaging apps," according to its blog post:Today we are announcing...
Next Generation CarPlay Porsche 1

Apple Launching Next-Generation CarPlay This Year With These New Features

Wednesday February 21, 2024 2:03 pm PST by
Apple recently updated its website to confirm that the first vehicle models with next-generation CarPlay support will debut "in 2024." This wording is shown on Apple's regional websites for the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries. The iOS 17.4 beta includes code-level references to eight new CarPlay apps:Auto Settings: This app will let you manage paired iPhones...
cracked glass vision pro

Handful of Apple Vision Pro Units Develop Identical Crack in Cover Glass

Friday February 23, 2024 4:46 am PST by
A small number of Apple Vision Pro owners have claimed that their headsets developed a hairline crack down the middle of the front cover glass, despite having never been dropped or mishandled. Photo of hairline crack in Vision Pro front glass (credit: Reddit user Inphenite) The first report was posted in the subreddit /r/VisionPro about 18 days ago, and several more have appeared in the last...
iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Monday February 19, 2024 6:52 am PST by
Apple last month confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU and Apple Podcasts transcripts. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay later this year. More details about the new...
Oled iPads and MackBook Pro Notch

Apple's OLED Roadmap: New iPad Mini, Foldable iPad Pro, and More

Wednesday February 21, 2024 5:29 am PST by
Apple is planning to launch at least nine new devices with OLED displays across the iPad and MacBook product lines, according to an updated forecast from research firm Omdia that sets out the company's plans in detail. As widely rumored, Apple's push to transition to OLED will apparently be jump-started by the release of new 11- and 13-inch iPad Pro models this year. The displays will...
New Macs iPads iOS 17 4

What to Expect at Potential Apple Event in March: iPads, Macs, and More

Friday February 23, 2024 8:35 am PST by
Apple often holds its first media event of the year in March, so the company could be just weeks away from announcing new products. Below, we have outlined what to expect from a potential Apple Event this March. Past Apple Events in March Apple has held five events in March since 2015:Monday, March 9, 2015 Monday, March 21, 2016 Tuesday, March 27, 2018 Monday, March 25, 2019 Tuesday,...