By Alexander Marrow
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian lawmaker on Wednesday urged state institutions to stop using WhatsApp messenger and the industry ministry sought to promote domestically produced software as Russia tries to wean itself off Western technology.
WhatsApp owner Meta Platforms Inc. was found guilty of “extremist activity” in Russia in March and later added to financial monitoring agency Rosfinmonitoring’s list of “terrorists and extremists”. Meta’s lawyer in court has said Meta was not carrying out extremist activity and was against Russophobia.
Russia blocked Meta’s Facebook and Instagram in March, objecting to restrictions on Russian media and some posts permitted by users in Ukraine.
Widely used among Russians, WhatsApp has always remained available, but Anton Gorelkin, deputy head of the Russian parliament’s committee on information policy, on Wednesday said he personally would be deleting the app and recommended a wider ban.
“I think it is necessary to introduce a full ban on WhatsApp use for official purposes by the Russian state and municipal employees,” Gorelkin wrote on Telegram, an alternative messenger that is very popular in Russia.
“Whether it is a Russian alternative or from Dubai does not matter – the main thing is that it does not belong to a company that openly participates in the information war against our country and is included on the list of terrorist and extremist organisations.”
Russia has acknowledged major shortcomings with its electronics industry. As Western sanctions and an exodus of foreign firms stymie its access to technology imports and solutions, Moscow has sought to boost the industry with tax breaks and preferential loans.
Vasily Shpak, deputy industry and trade minister, said the niche vacated by foreign telecoms manufacturers should be filled by domestic ones.
“There will be no going back,” Interfax news agency quoted Shpak as saying, adding that firms exiting the country must not be allowed to return to the same niches they have vacated.
“This niche should be filled by our producers,” Shpak said, calling for electronics products with domestic software to form the “basis of Russia’s technological independence”.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)