Putin Does Not Exclude Blocking Foreign Internet Services in Case of Hostile Anti-Russia Actions

A discussion on the necessity of an autonomous cyberspace emerged in Russia earlier amid concerns regarding big tech companies in the United States and how they control the global web space.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said that he does not rule out the possibility of switching off foreign internet services in Russia in the event of hostile action against the country.

The Russian president outlined that restrictions against foreign internet services would only be implemented when the country comes up with its own alternative.

"And when we do have something of our own, we will curtail, if at all, only taking a particular situation into consideration [...] I don’t want to artificially cut anything off, but when some hostile actions are carried out, I do not exclude this. Hostile actions with respect to our country are unacceptable," Putin said during a meeting with Russian media editors.

The president said that there are many domestic tech services in Russia, such as Yandex and Sberbank, that have good prospects.

According to Putin, "our respectable colleagues, when they see that there is an alternative and they do not have a monopoly in this market, will act differently".

Earlier in February, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said that it is "possible" to reduce foreign internet traffic in case of "unfriendly" actions towards Russia, but noted that the scenario was "unlikely".

"But, frankly, I don’t see any signs of it [cutting Russia off] happening," Medvedev said at the time.

He also said that Russia has a bill on its internet segment, which, if enacted, would be able to function autonomously.

Medvedev outlined a certain political bias present in social media, even though they are corporate structures, slamming Twitter's move to permanently ban former US President Donald Trump from its platform after the 6 January Capitol riot.

Autonomous Cyberspace?

While many Russian officials have expressed concern with regard to American big tech companies controlling a significant portion of global cyberspace, Medvedev in October 2020 said that the dominance poses certain issues and noted that Russia "believes that every state should control its cyberspace".

"It is fair, it corresponds to the basic principles of the international law. Otherwise, internet users and businesses cannot be certain that their rights are protected properly," he said.

Concerns regarding the possibility of US tech companies exercising censorship and potentially interfering in other countries' internal affairs prompted discussions on Russia moving to its own autonomous segment of the internet, reducing its reliance on global internet traffic.

It is noted that there are many potential threats and problems in connection with Russia's suggested step away from the global network, which could disrupt the stability of the internet.

However, according to Russian officials, there is a plan for the situation, and the country's life support systems are protected and would be able to function whether or not Russia is connected to global network.