I am a Ukrainian civil servant. We need more help on the digital front

It should be clear by now that Russia should be sanctioned for its illegal invasion of Ukraine. As Ukrainians vehemently oppose the occupation, we must urge international tech companies to take the drastic measures needed to isolate the aggressor and stop Russian state propaganda on various platforms — as well as prevent its participation in the global tech limit the ecosystem.

Russia’s misinformation stories, many of which are still spreading through social media platforms, are endangering the lives of Ukrainians. As a result, Instagram has started tagging the profiles of Russian propaganda media and Meta and YouTube have blocked some media created by Russian state propagandists. In response to these actions, Russia has banned independent media platforms, including Facebook. To curb the spread of the truth about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian parliament has passed a law imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for deliberately spreading “fake” news about the Russian military.

For the past two years, Ukraine’s technological focus has been on becoming a digital state, with the ambitious goal of turning Ukraine into a major European IT hub. But we now have a new technological goal: to make the Russians question their state propaganda and protest against their government officials.

The Ukrainian government has sent requests to companies such as Google, Apple, Mastercard, Visa and Paypal to block their services in Russia. Our actions are not directed against peaceful Russians. We are only striving to make the Russian people aware of the real state of affairs so that they stand up against Putin’s dictatorship.

The first results are promising and a number of companies have already taken the necessary action. In the past week alone, Apple stopped selling its products in Russia and YouTube blocked all Russian state media channels in Europe. The Google Play Store has also suspended apps from those outlets across the continent. Microsoft and Adobe announced the suspension of all their new product sales and services in Russia, and IBM, Cisco, SAP and Netscout stopped all business activities in the country. The entertainment industry in Russia is also changing. Netflix refused to broadcast Russian state television channels and Spotify closed its offices in Russia and limited Russian state-sponsored shows. In addition, Disney, Sony and Warner Bros. the film releases in Russia stopped.

Sanctions from financial services companies are particularly effective. Apple Pay and Google Pay are not available to many Russians. PayPal and Payoneer have discontinued their services in Russia and Visa and Mastercard have suspended all financial transactions in the country. These are the measures we were most looking forward to. These sanctions are irrevocable and could lead to the fall of Putin’s regime.

But more needs to be done. Following recent events in Ukraine, Russia cannot be part of the global IT ecosystem. We urge the world to stop funding technology companies native to or present in Russia. While Russia is not necessarily a world leader in technology, companies controlled by the Kremlin are dangerous and should feel the full effects of the sanctions. According to Pitchbook data published by the Wall Street Journal, in 2021 US investors participated in 20 deals involving startups with some operations in Russia, while investors in the European Union participated in 36. Any startup based or operating in Russia should be aware that it will not be able to increase profits because access to venture capital is closed to them. With or without intent, Russian companies sponsor the bloodshed in Ukraine through their taxes.

On behalf of the people of Ukraine, I would like to thank every company and country for their decisive actions against the aggressor and for billions of donations that will be used to rebuild a free, democratic and successful Ukraine. We ask the whole world to continue to support us.

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