(Reuters) – A Russian court on Friday ordered that access to the Telegram messenger service should be blocked in Russia, Russian news agencies reported, heralding communication disruption for scores of users – including government officials. The decision came a week after Russias state communication watchdog filed a lawsuit to limit access to Telegram messaging app following the companys refusal to give Russian state security services access to its users messages. With more than 200 million users worldwide, the mobile messaging app allows users to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties, including government authorities. Pavel Durov, founder of the Telegram, had repeatedly said his company would not hand over encryption keys to Russian authorities as it does not share confidential user data with anyone. In Russia, Telegram is increasingly popular as an app for mobile devices and desktops – not only among ordinary people but is widely used by authorities. The Kremlin uses Telegram to coordinate timings of regular conference calls with Vladimir Putins spokesman, while many government officials use the messenger to communicate with media. When Reuters asked a person in the Russian government on how they would operate without access to Telegram, the person, who asked not be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, replied by sending a screenshot of his mobile phone with an open VPN app. Users in Russia actively use virtual private networks, or VPNs, and other technologies, known as anonymisers, that allow people to get around restrictions that Russian authorities periodically impose on internet resources. Telegram became the second global network after LinkedIn to be blocked in Russia. LinkedIn was blocked in 2016 when a court found the firm guilty of violating a law that requires companies holding Russian citizens data to store it on servers on Russian soil. The ban on using Telegram in Russia comes at a time when the company is undertaking the worlds biggest initial coin offering – a private sale of tokens which could be traded as an alternative currency, similar to bitcoin or Ethereum. The company has so far raised $1.7 billion in pre-sales via the offering, according to media reports.
A Russian court has ruled that messaging app Telegram must be blocked in the country. The ruling follows months of battles between Telegram and Roskomnadzor, Russias telecommunications watchdog. Russias Federal Security Service (FSB) wants to access user data from Telegram through the sharing of encryption keys, but Telegram has refused to comply even after a court ruling. Russian news agency Tass reports that the messaging service will be blocked immediately following the latest court ruling, and the ban will be in place until Telegram provides decryption keys to the FSB. Its not clear how immediate the ban will be, though. The Financial Times reports that the ban will likely take place once Telegram has exhausted the appeals process over the next month. Russia implemented strict anti-terrorism laws in 2016, which required messaging services to provide authorities with the ability to decrypt messages. Telegram has been challenging these laws. Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov has now responded to the ban with a message of defiance on the service. At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales, says Durov. Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed. Update April 13th, 8AM ET: Telegram statement added to the article.