Russia Lifts Ban on Telegram After Unsuccessful Two-Year Block

Despite the country-wide prohibition, Telegram picked up more users in Russia and now ranks third after WhatsApp and Viber

Russian state’s communications watchdog, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, said it will lift a ban on Telegram app. The move comes two years after Russian authorities decided to block the popular encrypted messaging app.

“We positively assess the readiness expressed by the founder of Telegram to counter terrorism and extremism. By agreement with the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, Roskomnadzor removes requirements to restrict access to the Telegram messenger,” the agency said in a statement.

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Despite the country-wide prohibition, Telegram continues to pick up even more users in Russia and currently ranks third after WhatsApp and Viber. Its daily users in Russia grew to 4.4 million in February 2019 – the last time Telegram made this stat public. The app users have been able to access the service using VPNs.

The decision also comes after a slew of unsuccessful attempts to block the service which inadvertently blocked access to unrelated services, including Viber voice, applications for Volvo cars, and Xiaomi video apps, among many others.

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The relationship between Russian authorities and Telegram also improved recently after the latter helped the government spread its instructions about COVID-19 and promoted many initiatives to combat the virus.

Telegram loses on the US front

Telegram was banned in Russia in April 2018, following its refusal to turn over information related to its users and encryption keys to authorities. At the time, CEO Pavel Durov described a Moscow court ruling to block access to Telegram “an open farce.”

The FSB, Russia’s domestic security services, justified the ban by saying the app could easily be used by terrorists and there was no way to monitor Telegram activity for possible illicit activity.

While Durov and Telegram won the battle in their native country, they lost their fight against the United States’ regulators on a different front. Telegram, having agreed to hand over all bank statements about its $1.7 billion ICO, has abandoned its TON blockchain project. The decision comes after mounting legal ramifications coupled with the more aggressive stance taken by the SEC, which ultimately made Telegram executives reconsider their crypto ambitions altogether.

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