The US Treasury Department has lifted sanctions against Russian telecommunications and some Internet services. The order was published on the 7th of April. The move came in response to a request from human rights groups, who feared that Russian activists would not have access to the outside world due to sanctions. At the same time, it may prompt companies that have voluntarily restricted access for Russians to cancel the restrictions.
The new order allows for business transactions related to “services, software, hardware or technology involved in the exchange of messages over the Internet”. In particular, Russians were allowed to correspond, register a domain, use e-mail, and distribute photos and videos. Transactions involving Russian financial and government institutions remained banned.
The decision of the department was influenced by American and international non-profit organizations. In an open letter to the US president, they explained that journalism and independent media need access to secure and reliable information technology in order to document events in war zones and avoid state control over information. Restrictions also isolate pro-democracy forces and anti-war activists. The petition was signed, in particular, by the Ukrainian American organization US Ukrainian Activists.
We should remind that several US telecommunications companies have now suspended operations in Russia. Among them are Internet providers Lumen and Cogent, mail-mail service Mailchimp and Slack. Ukraine called for a complete shutdown of the Russian Internet, but the proposal was rejected.