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The move might have come in retaliation for Kyiv’s banning of popular Russian social networks and internet businesses.17 May 2017
Despite the lack of evidence so far to back such claims, Russia was the usual suspect, even more so in light of recent events. Through presidential decree, Ukraine had announced earlier on Tuesday that it was banning several Russian sites, including social networks VK.com and Odnoklassniki, search engine Yandex, and the mail.ru email service.
The ban’s justification was to protect against companies "whose activities threaten the information and cybersecurity of Ukraine," read a statement from the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council, cited by Reuters.
The websites will be added to a list of more than 400 Russian companies banned in Ukraine since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Russia did not sit idly by, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dubbing the move "shortsighted," while Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova called it a "manifestation of politically motivated censorship," in a comment for Russian newspaper Kommersant, Reuters writes.
It is unclear, however, when the ban will start. Mykhailo Chaplyga, a representative of the Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights, told the news agency UNIAN that “blocking access to sites without a court decision is not allowed” under Ukrainian law, the Guardian reports. Many also pointed out that the websites would still be accessible via a VPN client, already popular in the region as a way to circumvent official restrictions.
Some press freedom organizations were up in arms about the decision, RFE/RL reported, citing a tweet by Reporters Without Borders that read: "Nothing can justify such a blanket ban! Blatant violation of freedom of expression."
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