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Telegram to be banned in Russia, but VPN will bypass ban (Update)

The Russian government has asked prominent app repository APKMirror to remove Telegram from its website.

Published onApril 13, 2018

The Telegram app logo on a smokey red background.

Update (04/17/18 at 11:56 A.M.): Following Russia’s decision to ban Telegram, it looks like the country is also cracking down on third-party platforms offering the app.

The team behind APKMirror took to Twitter to reveal that Russian authorities had demanded the removal of Telegram from their platform.

.@durov @telegram The Russian government just told us (@APKMirror) to stop serving @telegram Android APKs to users in Russia.
Any thoughts on that?
— APK Mirror (@APKMirror) April 16, 2018

“Presumably, they’d have the power to cut all traffic to the site if we didn’t comply. They didn’t go as far as saying that directly, but probably would in a follow-up contact,” the team said. “Russia has no jurisdiction over @APKMirror but at the same time, we wouldn’t want to get blocked there.”

APKMirror later tweeted that they were ignoring the request “for now.”

Original article: Three weeks ago, we informed you that encrypted messaging app Telegram was under fire in Russia. Due to legislation that allows the government to liberally invade the privacy of Russian citizens, Telegram’s end-to-end encryption violates Russian law. In order to comply, Telegram would have to make users’ conversations readable by the government.

Unsurprisingly, Telegram is not going to do that, which is why a Russian court today, via Reuters, ordered that access to Telegram will be blocked in Russia.

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However, it is not hard to bypass the ban with the use of a virtual private network (VPN). All Russian citizens have to do is sign up for a VPN, change their virtual location to somewhere outside of Russia, and then chat on Telegram as usual. Here’s a list of VPN’s Android Authority considers the best.

Unfortunately, access to VPN’s is a bit trickier in Russia than it is in other parts of the world, so some of those services may not be available. But there are lots of options that can work, like this one here.

In a show of pure hypocrisy, members of the Kremlin use Telegram to talk with other politicians as well as communicate with journalists. With the app being banned, Reuters asked a member of the Kremlin how they would deal with the loss of Telegram. The anonymous informant sent a screenshot of the Telegram app open on their phone with a VPN running. Touché.

The founder and CEO of Telegram, Pavel Durov, himself a Russian expat, promised to work hard to keep Telegram working in Russia without having to use a third-party VPN. However, he couldn’t guarantee the implementations will work 100% of the time, which would mean a VPN would be necessary.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that the ban could be overturned if Telegram would simply comply with the law. “Limiting access was not the goal in and of itself,” he said. “There is the legal position, which requires the provision of data to certain Russian state bodies. Meetings this condition would have allowed for a consensus. But unfortunately, this consensus was not reached.”

Someone should inform the Kremlin that the way Telegram is encrypted gives no option to comply. In order to let someone monitor encrypted conversations, Telegram would have to remove end-to-end encryption from the service, which would then make the app just like any other unsecured messaging app available.

If you are confused about VPNs, check out our post on the topic here.

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