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Russians say they can grab software from Intel again

And Windows updates from Microsoft, too

People in Russia can reportedly once again download drivers and some other software from Intel and Microsoft, which both withdrew from the nation after its invasion of Ukraine.

Be aware that folks and companies in Russia have to take a somewhat circuitous route to get those files, according to Moscow's CNews.

The situation, we're assured, is this: while Intel's website generally remains closed to netizens visiting from Russia, if those people can reach Intel's download portal from a search engine or some other place, they can now, once again, use that site even if they are in the land of Putin. In other words, they can't come in through the front door, but if they can find the correct URL, it should now work. After war broke out, that wasn't the case, we're told.

Both Intel and Microsoft pulled out of Russia following the country's deadly invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Intel at first said it did so to comply with US export regulations that blocked the supply of semiconductors to Russia for specific reasons, including military applications.

A month into the occupation and the chip-making giant stopped all sales in Russia, and in April that year temporarily halted all business operations in the nation, saying in a statement it was joining "the global community in condemning Russia's war against Ukraine and calling for a swift return to peace." At the time, Intel had 1,200 employees in Russia.

This week Intel said in a moderately cryptic statement that "access to resources that meet driver update needs, such as the Intel Download Center and Intel Download Support Assistant, are part of Intel's warranty obligations." In other words, if you find yourself able to fetch stuff that you couldn't before, that's apparently why: warranty obligations.

Also, we note it's generally a good idea to let people download drivers from official sources rather than unofficial ones where they can be riddled with malware. (Insert joke here about Intel driver quality and bugs.)

Other than that, everything's still the same, we're told. "There have been no recent changes to our operations; Intel continues to comply with all applicable export regulations and sanctions in the countries in which it operates," the corporation's spinners said.

"This includes compliance with the sanctions and export controls against Russia and Belarus issued by the US and allied nations."

Unnamed sources told Tom's Hardware on Friday that while Intel did block connections from Russia, the chipmaker restored access late last year to the Intel driver and support downloads portal. Crucially, it seems people in Russia can't directly download drivers and other code from Intel; they have to use the automatic download tool. If they want to download files directly, they'll need to come in from a non-Russian IP address.

CNews also wrote that despite Intel's decision not to sell processors in Russia, citizens and companies are able to obtain them through various "virtual storefronts" – catalogs and marketplaces. It's part of what the news site called "parallel imports," a roundabout way of buying the chips from "gray" importers that Russia has legalized and that it says has been operating since May 2022.

And what about Microsoft?

According to CNews, Microsoft took a similar route as Intel in allowing some downloads. The Windows maker likewise has been vocal about its support for Ukraine, including announcing it was giving the embattled country as much as $100 million worth of cloud support, adding to other support pledged.

Soon after the invasion, Microsoft began shutting its doors to Russia, including prohibiting Russian citizens or corporations from downloading Windows distributions, software updates, or security patches from its websites.

However, Russian media reports say that some of these restrictions were lifted at the end of 2022 and that as of this week, updates for at least Windows 11 could be downloaded and installed by folks in Russia.

"As we shared previously, we have stopped all new product and services sales in Russia and are complying with sanctions from the EU, UK and US," Microsoft told The Register in a statement.

So, updates for existing products are OK, then? Got it. ®

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