Apple kicks ‘Russia’s Facebook’ VK out of the App Store

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Apple has removed VK, often referred to as “Russia’s Facebook”, out of the App Store.

The decision was made to comply with UK sanctions, Apple said, though it comes amid an increasing retreat from Russia generally by tech companies.

Russia suggested that the sanctions may not be the true reason for the departure, with Russian officials telling state-controlled media outlet RT that it was launching an investigation into why the app had been removed. In the same statement, it announced that it would be pursuing Apple for a new plan for the app given its “social significance”.

VK was previously known as VKontakte is Russia’s second-biggest internet company, only beaten by Yandex, which provides similar services to Google. It is also the country’s fifth most popular site, and runs a range of other popular services such as email services.

People who have already downloaded those apps will still have access, according to a statement posted on VK’s website. Their functionality will be “familiar and stable” but there could be problems with notifications and payments, the company said.

However, new users are not able to download the apps, and users will not be able to get updates. VK said it would continue to develop and support” iOS apps, though it is not clear how that will be possible given the only way to download apps onto iOS devices is through the App Store.

In a statement, Apple said the apps were being distributed or owned by parties that had been sanctioned by the UK government. Though it did not say so explicitly, that may be a reference to Gazprombank, whose executives were hit by sanctions from the UK on Monday, and which has ties to VK.

The ban will apply globally, Apple confirmed, including in Russia. Apple also said that it had terminated the developer accounts behind the apps.