US technology and telecommunications companies have cut services to Russia since it invaded Ukraine last month. During the same period, the Russian government has strangled or blocked popular US-based services such as Twitter and Facebook while imposing new criminal penalties for news coverage that fails to adhere to strict censorship policies. of the Kremlin. Many leading Western news agencies have ceased operations there, further weakening the flow of information from the country which is marred by punitive international sanctions.
Lumen said in a statement posted on its website: “We have decided to disconnect the network due to an increased security risk inside Russia. We have yet to experience any network disruptions, but given the increasingly uncertain environment and heightened risk of state action, we have made this decision to ensure the security of our networks and those of our customers, as well as the continued integrity of the global Internet.
The company tried to downplay its importance to the Russian market, saying, “The business services we provide are extremely small and very limited, as is our physical presence. However, we are taking action to immediately stop business in the area.
But telecommunications analysts said it was one of the main sources of Russian data from international sources. The company’s customers include some of Russia’s largest Internet providers to businesses and customers based there, including the country’s public telecommunications companies, Rostelecom and TransTelekom.
With the departure of Cogent and Lumen, the main sources of international data remaining are Western companies based in Sweden, Italy and the United Kingdom, according to analysis by internet monitoring company Kentik.
“We’re in uncharted territory here,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analytics at Kentik. “It will add up. It would be noticeable, I think.
Ukrainian officials have called on businesses and institutions to isolate Russian from the online world, even going as far as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based nonprofit group that oversees elements keys to the functioning of the Internet, to suspend the national domain “.ru” of Russia.
ICANN has denied that request, but a growing number of US-based companies are cutting off Russian customers in ways that threaten to undermine longstanding ties with the West. Apple, Microsoft and others have stopped sales there.
Amazon too moved to limit its cloud services in the region on Tuesday, saying it would stop accepting new Amazon Web Services customers in Russia and Belarus, which provided Russian military forces with staging areas to attack Ukraine.
The company, which operates the world’s largest cloud computing company, said it does not do business with the Russian government and does not have data centers in the country. Some customers in Russia use AWS, Amazon said, but the biggest are “companies headquartered outside the country that have development teams there.”
(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Russia’s own government, meanwhile, has also reduced access to the West by increasingly blocking popular internet services. While some Russians use technological tools, such as VPNs, to evade these restrictions, many observers warn that the nation risks becoming increasingly cut off from the outside world, as it was during Soviet times. .
The result, many critics warn, will leave Russians more dependent than ever on government propaganda that already dominates the country’s newspapers and broadcast stations, leaving few ways to access independent news sources at a time when the country entered a serious political crisis.
“Disconnecting Russia from the global internet means leaving Russians only with state propaganda that tells them that Ukrainians are their enemies. It will silence anti-war voices and it will hurt Ukraine,” said Natalia Krapiva, a digital rights lawyer with internet freedom advocacy group Access Now.
Rachel Lerman contributed to this report.