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Cloudflare, Akamai: Why we're not pulling out of Russia

Yanking connectivity would do more harm than good, they say

Though Cloudflare and Akamai have voiced their opposition to President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, they have stopped short of pulling completely out of Russia despite mounting pressure to do so.

In a March 6 statement, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said his company, which provides DDoS protection and other internet networking and security services, has received "several calls to terminate" all business inside Russia. He added that "we've watched in horror the Russian invasion of Ukraine," adding: "Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and the entire team at Cloudflare prays for a peaceful resolution as soon as possible."

That said, after discussing the situation with government and private-sector experts, Prince said Cloudflare concluded: "Russia needs more internet access, not less."

Russia needs more internet access, not less

Axing its services in Russia "would do little to harm the Russian government," and would instead limit access to outside news while making Russian protesters more vulnerable, Prince continued.

"We absolutely appreciate the spirit of many Ukrainians making requests across the tech sector for companies to terminate services in Russia," he wrote. "However, when what Cloudflare is fundamentally providing is a more open, private, and secure internet, we believe that shutting down Cloudflare's services entirely in Russia would be a mistake."

Prince's statement follows an appeal by cybersecurity startup SOC Prime (founded in U.S. by Ukrainian team) that called on US-based tech companies to suspend sales and business services to Russia. Specifically, the threat-detection platform provider called out AWS, Akamai, Cloudflare, and others that deliver DDoS protection for Russian and Belarusian websites.

"Continuing to provide access to these defensive measures, these companies have tacitly chosen a side and should address their rationale for supporting Russia in the face of tight sanctions and strong signals from the majority of industry peers that have chosen to do the right thing," SOC Prime CISO Vlad Garaschenko wrote. 

This also comes as Cogent, one of the planet's biggest internet backbone providers, pulled the plug on customers in Russia. The communications biz cited sanctions and Putin's unprovoked assault on Ukraine as the reasons behind the withdrawal, though netizens have suggested the last thing people in Russia need is less connectivity with and information from the wider world.

At least four global consultancies and several major tech firms including Apple, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle have entirely withdrawn from Russia or at least greatly scaled back their operations in the country amid America and Europe severely sanctioning Moscow.

As the conflict continues, AWS will continue providing security and cloud migration services to customers in Ukraine, according to a March 4 update.

"Unlike other US technology providers, AWS has no data centers, infrastructure, or offices in Russia, and we have a long-standing policy of not doing business with the Russian government," the mega-corp added. "Our biggest customers using AWS in Russia are companies who are headquartered outside of the country and have some development teams there.

"Like many of you around the world, we're watching what's happening in Ukraine with horror, concern, and heavy hearts. While we have no direct operations in Ukraine, we have employees and partners who are from or have a deep connection to the country."

The cloud giant will also suspend any AWS accounts that use its services to "threaten, incite, promote, or actively encourage violence, terrorism, or other serious harm to others," it continued.

Meanwhile, Akamai said it suspended all sales efforts in Russia and Belarus and ended business with state-majority owned customers in both countries. 

However, it "made a deliberate decision to maintain our network presence in Russia," according to a statement shared Monday. This will allow new services, social networks, and government institutions to provide "vital and accurate information" to Russian citizens, Akamai explained.

"We stand with the people of Ukraine," it added. ®

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