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Google blocks paid apps from Play Store in Russia

Cites 'payment system disruption' as credit card companies pull out of region

Google has begun blocking downloads of paid apps and their updates in Russia as of May 5, citing compliance issues.

Existing subscriptions will continue until the end of the billing cycle and free apps are not affected by the policy change. Developer payouts are also not affected.

Google has suggested that Russian developers of paid apps who wish to continue providing content either extend grace periods beyond the end of the billing period in Play Console or defer a user's renewal for up to a year with the Google Play Developer API. Developers can also offer free trials or their product for free altogether.

The new policy comes on top of the existing block on payments to app devs – which Google referred to as a "pause" – on March 10, where the billing system in Russia prevented any Google Play in-app purchases. Google cited "payment system disruption" as the reason for the hiatus – which makes sense given that credit card companies had voluntarily left the country over the Ukraine war.

Google has publicized its efforts in the war on the Ukraine, which include involvement from its Threat Analysis Group to identify cyber threats, limiting recommendations globally for select Russian state-funded media outlets, donating $25 million to help organizations delivering both immediate humanitarian aid, and longer-term assistance for refugees in Poland and more.

However, the Chocolate Factory has stopped short of withdrawing services and operations in the country amid increasing pressure to do so. Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, SAP, Microsoft, Nokia, and Ericsson have limited or altogether stopped doing business in Russia.

Meanwhile, Google has cited forces beyond its control for halting Play services in the region – compliance issues and payment system disruptions.

In Russia, Google's search engine comes in second place after the domestic Yandex. The search company's only datacenter outside of Russia has been starved of grid power for the past two weeks after a Finnish energy company terminated its contract with Yandex early and no other businesses appear willing to act as its supplier.

Yandex withdrew its financial guidance last month over the country's political uncertainty.

"In our e-commerce businesses, we anticipate a reduction of discretionary spending by consumers, although we currently have limited visibility in this regard," said Yandex in a filing updating its investors, signaling that it is facing a critical moment in the market.

Last October, Google revealed in its transparency report that Russia leads the world in the number of content-removal demands it receives. ®

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