Silicon Valley is slowly abiding by the sanctions the U.S. has placed on Crimea in response to the Russian annexation of the peninsula. (Joining Europe in the effort to put pressure on Moscow, Washington imposed a stricter economic embargo on Crimea last December.) Companies like Google, PayPal, and Apple have begun restricting their services to Crimea in compliance with the sanctions.
The peninsula has been at the crux of an international dispute, the war in the Ukraine, and — despite a vote to join Russia in the spring of 2014 — Crimeans are now feeling the effects of having slipped under Vladimir Putin’s control. Both the European Union and the U.S. have used sanctions and embargoes to reaffirm that they do not approve of the Kremlin’s annexation, and the ruble is tanking. The White House stated in December that these broader sanctions will force Moscow to pour its own money into the peninsula, and now it appears Crimeans will not enjoy certain technological amenities either.
Apple has cut its ties with Crimean developers; it has also ordered retailers to halt all shipments and sales of its products including iPhones and Mac computers as of February 1. Valve has cut off access to its Steam service, an enormous video game portal. PayPal has ceased its service to Crimeans. And the latest tech giant to remove services is Google. The company has begun to block AdSense and AdWords accounts, and intends to block access to Google Play — its app store — as of February 1. Reports note that it will continue to allow access to free internet-based services including its search engine, its social network Google+, Gmail, and Maps.
This removal of services — particularly a block to Google Play — will be a blow to the peninsula’s Android users. As the tech industry joins in on these sanctions, and the sanctions themselves become tighter, it remains to be seen how the Kremlin will react.