Should Apple worry about restrictions imposed by Putin on the tech giant


As of 17 July, Russian government employees are prohibited from using Apple devices for official state use, the Financial Times reported earlier this month, adding that the ban will apply to all Apple products.

The commerce department will ban iPhone use for all work purposes. Other agencies, including Minkomsvyaz, the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media of the Russian Federation will begin enforcement soon. Yet in some cases, officials can continue to use these devices for personal use, provided that they’re careful not to send any work connected to their jobs.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Apple cut off access to Apple Pay and later announced a halt to all product sales in Russia. At that time, Apple clarified that the decision was in response to the invasion and noted that it stood with everyone affected by the invasion.

What caused the iPhone ban?

The ban comes after the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) claimed in early June that it had discovered a spying operation by American intelligence agencies that included Apple devices, without providing evidence of this.

According to the claim, thousands of iPhones including those used by NATO diplomatic missions operating in Russia were infected with surveillance software.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Security Council via a video link in Moscow, Russia, July 21, 2023. (credit: Sputnik/Alexander Kazakov/Kremlin via REUTERS)

The FSB went on to claim that the company worked closely with the US National Security Agency to provide agents with a wide range of control tools. The tech giant has denied these allegations, stating that it has never worked with any government to build a backdoor into an Apple product, and never will.

More broadly, the move reflects the Russian government’s desire to reduce its dependence on foreign-made technology. As the Times notes, in 2022 President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering institutions involved in critical information infrastructure to switch to locally produced software by 2025.