After Apple Stops Sales in Russia, Ukraine Asks Tim Cook To Block App Store

A Ukrainian government official has called on tech giants Apple and Google to block access to their respective app stores in Russia.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, tweeted on Wednesday morning that a "complete blocking" of Apple's App Store and Google's Google Play services could help "end Putin's regime." Fedorov also called on payment providers Visa and MasterCard to stop serving the country.

It is not the first time Fedorov has called on Apple to take action. He repeated the message on Tuesday and on February 25 he wrote a letter to Apple's CEO Tim Cook, which he published on Twitter, calling on him to "stop supplying Apple services and products to the Russian Federation, including blocking access to [the] App Store."

The letter said: "We are sure that such actions will motivate [the] youth and active population of Russia to proactively stop the disgraceful military aggression."

Russia might be hit hard by a Google services or Google Play store ban—as of February this year, Google's Android services retained an almost 75 percent share of the country's mobile operating system market, according to StatCounter.

But an Apple App store ban would not be inconsequential, with Apple's iOS operating system retaining almost all of the remaining mobile market share in a country of about 145 million people.

Cook did not appear to reply publicly to Fedorov's tweet but wrote on February 25 that he was "deeply concerned" about the situation in Ukraine and said Apple was "doing all we can for our teams there and will be supporting local humanitarian efforts."

Apple has already announced a halt to all product sales in Russia as part of a wider corporate backlash to the country's invasion of Ukraine last week, which is still ongoing and has led to the deaths of at least 136 Ukrainian civilians, including 13 children as of Tuesday and injured hundreds more, according to the United Nations—though Ukraine's own estimate of civilian deaths is far higher.

Apple Pay and services like Apple Maps are reported to have been limited in Russia. Google, meanwhile, has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine but said on Tuesday that most of its services, including Google Maps, Search, and YouTube, remain available in Russia. The company said it would "take additional actions as needed."

One of the major global actions taken against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine has been the exclusion of several Russian banks from SWIFT, a vast massaging network used by banks to send and receive information such as instructions on money transfers.

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at a conference in California in June, 2018. Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov has asked Cook to ban the Apple App Store in Russia amid the country's invasion of Ukraine. Justin Sullivan/Getty