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Russia Asks Apple To Help It Enforce Ban On Telegram

People protesting Russia's ban on the Telegram messenger service.
People protesting Russia's ban on the Telegram messenger service.

Russia's communications regulator said it has asked U.S. cell phone giant Apple to help it block the popular messaging service Telegram in Russia.

Roskomnadzor's press service on May 28 said the regulator sent a letter to Apple asking it to block push notifications for Telegram users in Russia, ensuring that Apple phone and tablet users do not receive alerts about new messages and rendering the application less useful.

The regulator, which started enforcing a court ban on Telegram on April 16 after the company refused to give Russian security services access to private conversations, also asked Apple to no longer make the free Telegram app available for download in the country.

Also on May 28, Russian state news agency TASS reported that Roskomnadzor is working with American technology giant Googleto implement the ban against Telegram.

Roskomnadzor in its letter to Apple said the company should "inform us as soon as possible about your company's further actions to resolve the problematic issue" with Telegram, or face a "possible action by the agency."

Russian news agency Interfax quoted Roskomnadzor's director Aleksandr Zharov as saying that Apple has one month to reply to the regulator's request. He declined to say what action Roskomnadzor might take if Apple refuses to comply, but told Interfax that the company is legally bound by the court ban on Telegram.

A Moscow court last month banned Telegram following a long-running battle with authorities over access to its securely encrypted communications. The ban has provoked repeated protests in Russia by thousands who use and support the popular messaging service.

The service was created by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, who has vowed to reject any attempt by the country's security services to gain forced access to messages.

Telegram lets people exchange messages, stickers, photos, and videos in groups of up to 5,000 people. It has attracted more than 200 million users since its launch by Durov and his brother Nikolai in 2013.

While Roskomnadzor moved to block Telegram after the court ruling, it has acknowledged only limited success at disrupting and reducing Telegram's operations by between 15 percent to 30 percent.

Zharov and other Russian officials have claimed the ban against Telegram is justified because the service has been used in the planning of terror attacks around the world.

With reporting by AFP, TASS, and Interfax