Russia has formally asked Google and Apple to remove encrypted messaging service Telegram from their respective app stores.
The country’s telecoms regulator has officially submitted requests to the two companies to get Telegram expunged from the Google Play and Apple App Stores in Russia, according to Reuters.
The agency, Roskomnadzor, confirmed on Monday that it had started rolling out a nationwide ban on the messaging app following an order from a Russian court made last week.
On Friday, a Moscow-based judge gave the go-ahead to the Russian government to stop citizens from accessing the service.
Roskomnadzor had asked the court for a legally-binding ban after the company failed to hand over encryption keys. It told the judge that the app posed a threat to Russia’s national security.
According to the New York Times, it took just 18 minutes for the court to grant the watchdog its Telegram ban, with immediate effect. The agency had only organised the court hearing a day earlier.
Telegram has been embroiled in a legal dispute with Russia’s telecoms regulatory body for years. Authorities want unlimited access to the app so they can snoop on messages as part of what they claim are anti-terrorism and crime measures.
In 2016, the powerful agency teamed up with the Kremlin to push through a new terrorism law that grants security officials sweeping backdoor access to encrypted apps like Telegram.
Repeatedly ignoring these orders, Telegram filed a lawsuit against the regulator and Russian government a few months ago.
However, it was unsuccessful, and the court told the company to pay a fine of around $14,000. The agency responded with its own lawsuit, which it won nearly a week ago.
Speaking to Reuters recently, Telegram’s lawyer said: “The FSB’s argument that encryption keys can’t be considered private information defended by the Constitution is cunning.
“It’s like saying, ‘I’ve got a password from your email, but I don’t control your email, I just have the possibility to control.”
In recent weeks, Telegram has approached the European Court of Human Rights to fight Russia’s decision. But there has been no word of an outcome.