Russian watchdog goes nuclear in attempts to enforce Telegram ban

Telegram was blocked in Russia last Friday over its failure to provide the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) with access keys to its encrypted communications. Telegram says that since it offers end-to-end encryption to users, submitting to the FSB demand would have required an overhaul of the entire service.

The task of enforcing the court order in Russia fell to Roskomnadzor (RKN), the telecommunication watchdog authorized to order internet providers in Russia to blacklist online addresses. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov remained defiant and said his company will take measures to avoid the blocks.

On Monday, an apparent internet war ensued between RKN and Telegram, which turned to tech giants such as Amazon and Google to route traffic through alternative servers. The service was briefly disrupted in Russia, but by Monday evening Russian users reported a significant improvement.

The watchdog chose an all-out response, blocking some 15 million IP addresses reportedly belonging to the two US companies in an attempt to corner Telegram and block all access. It also threatened repercussions to VPN providers and other online services which could be used to circumvent the court order. In addition, it demanded that Google and Apple suspend the Telegram app from their app stores in Russia.

Amid the dragnet blocking by RKN, some people and companies, including Telegram competitor Viber, complained online that the measures affected other services which used Amazon and Google infrastructure. Roskomnadzor said it followed up on the reports and found them to be untrue.

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