Russia Bans Telegram App by Blocking Millions of Amazon, Google IP Addresses

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state communications regulator on Tuesday said it had blocked IP addresses owned by Google and Amazon in order to ban the Telegram messaging service.

Roskomnadzor’s head Alexander Zharov said it had blocked 18 sub-networks and a significant number of IP-addresses belonging to Google and Amazon, the Interfax news agency reported.

“We have currently informed both companies that a significant number of IP addresses located in the clouds of these two services have fallen under the block on the basis of the court ruling (to block Telegram),” Zharov was quoted as saying.

The watchdog said the IP addresses were being used by the popular messaging service, which refused to comply with a court order earlier this week to hand over its users’ encrypted messages to Russian security agencies.

Blocking the IP addresses has prevented Russian internet users from accessing Telegram and other services that route content through Google and Amazon servers. Some users have circumvented the block by using virtual private networks, which make it seem as though they were accessing the internet from another country.

In an update posted to his Telegram channel, the app’s founder Pavel Durov said there were no significant impact yet from the watchdog’s move.

“For the last 24 hours Telegram has been under a ban by internet providers in Russia. The reason is our refusal to provide encryption keys to Russian security agencies. For us, this was an easy decision. We promised our users 100% privacy and would rather cease to exist than violate this promise”.

“Despite the ban, we haven’t seen a significant drop in user engagement so far, since Russians tend to bypass the ban with VPNs and proxies. We also have been relying on third-party cloud services to remain partly available for our users there,” Durov said.

He went on to thank Telegram users in Russia for their support — saying the country accounts for about 7 percent of the app’s user base. (Last month Telegram announced passing 200 million monthly active users, which suggests it has about 14 million users in Russia.)

He also name-checks four U.S. tech giants — Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft — for, as he puts it, “not taking part in political censorship”

Telegram moved some of its infrastructures to third-party cloud services to try to make it harder for authorities to block access to its app. But the Russian state responded by blocking millions of IP addresses belonging to Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, apparently causing collateral damage to swathes of other digitally delivered services.