Almost all major IT companies have joined the West’s global economic sanctions against Russia in recent weeks. To a large extent, this is related to the punitive measures imposed by the US government at the start of the war in Ukraine. The export of numerous technologies that could be used for the construction of weapons or military infrastructure was banned. These include semiconductors and other microelectronics, telecommunications equipment, sensors, aerospace technology, navigation systems, naval equipment and much more.
The following is an overview — without claiming to be exhaustive — of companies from all over the world that have temporarily suspended all or part of their business in Russia.
How the IT industry reacted
AMD/Intel/Nvidia/TSMC and other chip suppliers: The three big players in the semiconductor scene — Intel, AMD and Nvidia — immediately followed the American export restrictions and stopped their sales in Russia at the beginning of March. From the Russians’ point of view, the fact that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has also joined the ban is likely to weigh even more heavily.
Russian semiconductor companies such as Baikal, MCST, Yadro and STC Module design their chips themselves, but have them produced by the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, so there is a possibility that Russia is completely stranded in terms of chip supply at the moment, especially since suppliers such as Samsung, Micron and SK Hynix have also suspended all deliveries.
Adobe: Adobe has temporarily stopped selling all its software and services in Russia. Creatives in government-controlled media (RT News, Sputnik) also no longer have access to the software company’s cloud offerings (Creative Cloud, Document Cloud, Experience Cloud). At the same time, Adobe has initiated a series of emergency financial aid programs through its foundation to benefit refugees and persecuted journalists.
Amazon: Amazon customers will have to forgo retail deliveries in Russia and Belarus. On March 8, the largest online retailer said it would no longer make deliveries in Russia or accept new customers for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud offering. The Prime Video service for Russian users was also discontinued. Even before the war began, Amazon had refused to do business with the Russian government. The company also provides technical support to Ukraine to defend against cyberattacks.
Apple: In early March 2022, the iPhone vendor announced that it would suspend all sales of physical products in Russia after the invasion. Apple only sells the iPhone, iPad, and the like in Russia online and through partners and doesn’t operate any flagship stores there. CEO Tim Cook had been asked for support in an open letter from Ukrainian Digital Minister Mykhailo Fedorov.
Apple also kicked Russian media apps such as RT News and Sputnik out of the AppStore and edited its Apple Maps service so that traffic and accident reports in Ukraine can no longer be followed. The AppStore in Russia continues to run, however, and customers can update their software as before.
After sanctions were imposed on Russian banks, Apple announced that it would also discontinue its Apple Pay payment service to comply with legal requirements.
Cisco: Cisco also froze all business activities, including sales and services, in Russia and Belarus “for the foreseeable future.” Every effort is being made to stand by employees, people and institutions, CEO Chuck Robbins said.
Cisco is providing cyber defense support to Ukraine. The company told CIO.com’s sister publication Computerwoche that more than 500 Cisco Talos employees are currently engaged in combating cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns in the region. In addition, the Cisco Talos Intelligence Group, one of the largest commercial threat intelligence teams in the world, manages critical infrastructure security environments, scans the threat landscape, and takes action against malicious actors.
Dell: Dell Technologies had already ended all sales activities in Russia by March 1. In an interview with CRN, founder and CEO Michael Dell said of events in Ukraine, “It’s a great tragedy and very disappointing to see a humanitarian disaster.” Dell is among the world’s largest suppliers of servers, storage systems, hyper-converged infrastructure, and PCs.
Deutsche Telekom: The Bonn-based network operator stopped doing business in Russia altogether. Telekom does not operate any networks in Russia, but employs about 2,000 people there, most of them at a software development site in St. Petersburg. Services for customers outside Russia were offered from there. These services will now be continued from other locations.
At the shareholders’ meeting on April 7, Board of Management spokesman Tim Höttges reported that many software developers had left Russia because this was a prerequisite for continuing to work for the German telecommunications group. He added that Deutsche Telekom was helping those affected to relocate. Höttges spoke of a “very humane solution.”
Google: The search giant has suspended its advertising services in Russia and, like AWS, stopped accepting new customers from Russia into its Google Cloud. Google subsidiary YouTube is blocking access to state-sponsored Russian media channels around the world. Russian citizens can no longer order paid services in the mobile Google Play Store or on YouTube. In addition, the Google Pay payment service was discontinued in Russia. Here Google follows the sanctions of the West against Russian banks. Free services remain accessible, and Russian customers can also continue to use their products and services once purchased.
HPE/HP: Antonio Neri, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), stopped all shipments of IT equipment shortly after Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
The same is true for PC and printer supplier HP, whose CEO Enrique Lores said on Feb. 28, when announcing the company’s latest quarterly results, that due to the war it would have to write down its earnings by two to three cents per share in the current quarter.
Huawei: The U.K.’s Daily Mail reports that Huawei is said to have helped Russian authorities re-stabilize the Internet after a globally coordinated attack by Anonymous hackers on a host of Russian websites. Huawei, which reportedly maintains five research centers in Russia and trains Russian IT security experts on a large scale, has since been seen as no longer neutral in the conflict.
Chinese groups such as semiconductor company Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) and smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi have also not yet made a clear statement on the Ukraine war. In an interview with the New York Times, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the US government could “essentially shut down” Chinese tech companies if they wanted to circumvent or even capitalize on sanctions imposed by Western countries. That could be done, she said, by no longer allowing those companies to use software and equipment made in the US.
IBM: IBM CEO Arvind Krishna suspended all business in Russia and stressed that the company’s full attention is now focused on IBM employees and their families in Ukraine.
Meta: While other companies voluntarily shut down their services, Russian authorities banned Facebook and Instagram for “extremist activities.” Meta Platforms was sued because users had called for violence against the Russian army. In fact, on March 10, Reuters reported on Meta internal emails, saying that Ukrainian Facebook and Instagram users should be allowed to call for violence against the Russian invaders, given the desperate situation.
At stake, they said, is “people’s freedom of speech as an expression of self-defense in response to the military invasion of their country.” Calls for violence against Russian civilians would continue to be blocked.
Microsoft: On March 4, Microsoft announced it would immediately stop selling new products and services in Russia. Just like AWS and Google Cloud, Microsoft is no longer accepting new Russian customers for its Azure cloud service.
Microsoft has been particularly generous in its support for Ukrainian civilians: around $35 million has been provided for humanitarian purposes, a good half of it in the form of technology. The company is also helping Ukraine with cyber defense: for example, it provided the country with an external vulnerability analysis of its infrastructure. Microsoft disaster response teams have worked on 67 projects, some of which have already been completed, in less than four weeks to protect potential cyberattack targets in Ukraine.
Netflix: The streaming service suspended its service in Russia in early March. The background is a new law that requires media platforms broadcasting in Russia with more than 100,000 subscribers to also air state-controlled TV channels offering news and entertainment. The waiver has only moderate consequences from Netflix’s perspective, as it had only been present in the country since 2016 and has only about one million Russian subscribers. Globally, Netflix serves more than 222 million customers with its streaming offerings.
Nokia: The Finnish network equipment maker stopped providing services in Russia in compliance with sanctions in early March. However, as the New York Times wrote, Nokia has provided the Russian government with a significant portion of the network equipment and also the software that can now be used to spy on opponents of the regime, such as Alexei Navalny. Russia’s System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM) is currently being used by the Putin administration to monitor opposition figures and take them out of circulation, writes the US newspaper.
More than five years ago, Nokia supplied equipment and services to Russia’s largest mobile carrier, MTS. Today, however, the Federal Security Service (FSB) uses the integrated system to intercept and spy on telephones, e-mails, and text messages. The New York Times has documents from 2017 and 2018 that allegedly prove that the Finns knew who they were supporting. However, they say it was more important for them to stay in the loop as a supplier to telcos on the ground.
Oracle: Shortly after Ukrainian Digital Minister Fedorov wrote to Oracle and SAP on March 2 asking them to stop doing business with Russia, both companies promptly responded. Fedorov asked Oracle to “end all relations and not to do any business with the Russian Federation” — in particular, not to provide support, maintenance and software updates for Oracle products until the conflict was resolved.
In a tweet, Oracle responded three hours later: “On behalf of Oracle’s 150,000 employees around the world and in support of both the elected government of Ukraine and for the people of Ukraine, Oracle Corporation has already suspended all operations in the Russian Federation.”
PayPal: The fintech giant joined the likes of Visa and Mastercard in shutting down its services in Russia in early March. The company instead positioned itself as a platform for donations to provide humanitarian aid to people in war zones as well as refugees.
Samsung: Not only in semiconductors, but also in smartphones, the Korean technology giant is no longer competing in Russia. Alongside Apple and Xiaomi, Samsung is one of the country’s largest smartphone suppliers.
SAP: The German software house joined the sanctions early on (see Oracle), but only stopped its cloud operations in Russia as well after initial hesitation. Previously, all sales had been halted. Customers of its on-premises software can continue to use it but will no longer receive support for the time being.
As the Ukrainian news portal The Kyiv Independent reported, SAP invited its customers in Russia to move their cloud data out of the country before its data centers there were shut down. In a March 23 letter from the SAP Executive Board, the Walldorf-based company offered its Russian customers three options: SAP could hand over their data, delete it — both of which would result in an immediate end to the contract — or migrate the data to foreign data centers. This service is free of charge.
An SAP spokesperson told CIO that the data in the data centers does not belong to the company, but to the customers. For legal reasons, options have therefore been worked out as to how this data can be transferred. He added that this also applied to international customers who had previously also been active in the Russian market.
Meanwhile, SAP employees are particularly committed: “The total amount of donations from SAP and employees has exceeded three million euros and continues to grow. More than 4,000 employees have offered housing and other assistance to refugees. We also provide SAP office space to store donations such as medicine and food,” a statement said. SAP is also offering its technologies to help aid organizations and medical personnel provide care to Ukrainian citizens.
Sony: Sony studios has halted the release of upcoming feature films in Russia, as well as sales of the PlayStation 5 and the operation of Sony Music. The company is an example of many Japanese companies that showed solidarity with Ukraine. A few days ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the Japanese government because the sanctions and the decisive action of the Japanese were important signs for the entire Asian region. Observers were particularly surprised by Japan’s willingness to accept refugees from Ukraine — a gesture that cannot be taken for granted in that country.
Spotify: The music streaming app also discontinued its services in Russia because the risk became too great. The Putin administration has been imposing stiff penalties on unfavorable reports involving the army over the past few weeks, calling them “fake news.” Although the company originally wanted to maintain its services in the spirit of neutral reporting, the Swedes then deemed the risk to employees and customers too high.
TikTok: For a similar security reason to Spotify, Chinese social network TikTok is also preventing livestreams and the uploading of fresh content in Russia: the concern is about spreading what Russians consider to be “fake news.” The security of employees and users was said to be a top priority.
Twitter: Similar to Facebook, the channel popular with journalists and politicians was blocked by Russian authorities because they don’t want to allow any news sources alongside their own. Twitter then provided unofficial access via the Tor network — based on the Enterprise Onion Toolkit (EOTK). This so-called onion router encrypts Internet traffic and routes it through a network of thousands of servers worldwide. Users are completely anonymous and can use it in Russia without risking detection by censors.
Translated from an article published by CIO.com’s German sister publication, Computerwoche: “Diese IT-Firmen zeigen Russland die Rote Karte.”