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Apple removes Russia’s largest social network from the App Store

The translated statement says that “some UK applications are blocked by Apple”, but that it will “continue to develop and support iOS applications”. The Russian Ministry of Digital Affairs told the state-controlled media outlet RT that it was investigating “the reasons for the removal of VK applications and developer accounts, underlining the social importance and scale of the use of the Russian company’s services.” The apps are still available in Google’s Play Store.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the government has blocked several US social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The US and other governments have imposed sanctions on many individuals and companies affiliated with the Russian government, including the CEO of the VK Group and Vladimir Kiriyenko, an ally of Putin. VKontakte was founded in 2006 by Pavel Durov, who was eventually pushed out of the company, saying: there would be no turning back “After I publicly refused to cooperate with the authorities. They can’t stand me.” He then focused on his encrypted messaging app, Telegram.

Apple’s removal of VK apps means Russian iPhone users will no longer be able to access the app for the country’s fifth most popular site. according to SimilarWeb, as well as other VK apps like Mail.ru, VK Music, and Youla Ads. Company told Russian news channel Interfax that the apps may continue to work, but there may be issues with notifications and payments.

Interfax also reports that VK sold the assets of its gaming division, My.Games to LETA Capital head Alexander Chachava, a Russian businessman based in the Cayman Islands who managed to come up with $642 million to close the deal. It will be run by executives who were already in attendance, and VK had praised it as a Russian alternative to Steam and Epic Games Store after sanctions blocked the sale of many digital games in the country.

VK’s apps once had a very prominent place on the iPhone. Last year, a law went into effect requiring tech companies to pre-install Russian apps on devices sold in the country. Apple did this by adding a screen to the iPhone installation process that showed users a list of apps from Russian companies that they could download. The list included several of VK’s apps, including the social network, email client, and digital assistant.

Update September 27, 9:07 PM ET: Added context about VK’s apps being included in the iPhone installation process in Russia.

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