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Russia, blocked from the global internet, plunges into digital isolation


“At the moment I plan to work in Russia,” he said. “How that might change in the future, especially if YouTube gets blocked, I don’t know.”

Unlike China, where domestic internet companies have grown into giants for more than a decade, Russia does not have such a vibrant domestic internet or tech industry.

So, as it is locked into its own digital ecosystem, the fallout can be severe. In addition to access to independent information, the future reliability of Internet and telecommunications networks, as well as the availability of basic software and services used by business and government, are at risk.

Already, Russian telecommunications companies that operate mobile phone networks no longer have access to new equipment and services from companies such as Nokia, Ericsson and Cisco. Efforts by Russian companies to develop new microprocessors have been thrown into doubt after the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the largest maker of essential semiconductors, halted shipments to the country. Yandex, Russia’s biggest internet company, with a search engine more widely used than Google in Russia, has warned it could default on debt due to the crisis.

“The whole IT, hardware and software market that Russia relies on is badly damaged right now,” said Aliaksandr Herasmenka, a research fellow with the University of Oxford’s democracy and technology program. Russian authorities could respond by relaxing rules that have made it illegal to download pirated software, he said.

The Ukrainian government has also pressured internet service providers to cut off access in Russia. Ukrainian officials have asked ICANN, the non-profit group that oversees internet domains, to suspend the Russian internet domain “.ru”. The association resisted these demands.

Denis Lyashkov, a self-taught web developer with more than 15 years of experience, said Russia’s censorship campaign was “devastating” for those who grew up with a less restricted internet.