Russia bans foreign software purchases for critical infrastructure

Public agencies told to stop using overseas apps from 2025 as parallel imports approved, too

Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the purchase of foreign software – be it standalone applications or code shipping in equipment – for significant critical infrastructure projects, with limited exceptions.

From here on, organizations must seek approval before they can buy in overseas software for this level of infrastructure. Putin also prohibited public agencies and other customers from using foreign software as of January 1, 2025, in a bid to promote Russia's technological independence.

The new rules appear in order No. 166 [PDF], which was signed by Putin on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, and takes effect on Thursday, March 31, 2022. The order is titled "On measures to ensure the technological independence and security of the critical information infrastructure of the Russian Federation."

The directive goes on to instruct Russian government agencies to clarify within a month their software requirements related to major critical infrastructure and to adopt rules for approving the purchase of necessary foreign software.

It also asks the Russian government to form a group focused on developing, producing, and maintaining trusted software and hardware for critical infrastructure projects. And it gives the government six months to adopt measures: that promote the use of domestic radio and telecom equipment for critical infrastructure sites; and that establish a monitoring and control regime, in addition to assuring trained personnel are available to manage the planned trusted tech.

Some foreign software has already become scarce in Russia after many US and European technology companies suspended sales to protest Russia's war on Ukraine. Russia's February 24, 2022 invasion, and the international sanctions that followed, have prompted major Western firms to suspend operations in the country or, at a minimum, to service only existing customers.

Separately, Russia will allow "parallel imports" – the import of products without the authorization of the trademark holder – in response to global brands that have withdrawn their products in protest, or if not on moral grounds at least to duck social media scolding.

In a broadcast meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the purpose of embracing gray market goods is to satisfy Russian demand for brands that cannot be sold in the country without permission of the rights holder.

According to Reuters, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service said the rules it drafted will help promote competition and lower prices by increasing the number of businesses importing goods. Products approved for parallel import may include designer brands, medicines, movies, TV shows, and games; it's unclear whether software, already quite pirated, would be affected.

Lower prices would certainly be welcome in Russia, where annual inflation is said to have surpassed 15 percent, and prices for some commodities are up substantially more. Since March, 2021, according to The Moscow Times, the price of sugar is up 56 percent, cabbage prices have risen 209 percent, and flour is up 21 percent. ®

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