Apple halts sales in Russia, takes rare stance

Apple halts sales in Russia, takes rare stance

Tuesday, Apple said it was suspending all product sales and limiting the functionality of some of its services in Russia in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. iPhones and other Apple products are currently not sold in Apple Stores in Russia, and Apple Pay and other services have been restricted.

The company also removed Russian news apps, including the app for Kremlin-backed news services Russia Today and Sputnik, from its App Stores in countries other than Russia and said it had disabled traffic patterns and live incident reporting in Apple Maps in Ukraine in an effort to deter tracking the movements of Ukrainians.

Apple is the latest tech company to take a clear stand against the invasion of Ukraine, which has so far caused the death of more than 130 civilians and hundreds of others injured, by cutting off or severely limiting access to its products. While Apple has focused on bans in Russia, other tech companies have removed support for Russian services in European countries. Microsoft removed Russian news apps of its global Microsoft app store, plans to deprioritize search results for the same news outlets on Bing and ban Russian state-sponsored ads. Google has blocked YouTube channels for RT and Sputnik in Europe, is block changes on Google Maps in the conflict zone and removes Russian state-funded publishers from Google News. And Facebook’s parent company, Meta, said it would. restrict access to RT and Sputnik in Europe.

However, Apple’s move is particularly notable given the high profile of its products and the outsized influence it wields as a leader in the tech industry. “Apple has a lot of power. And consumers are very dependent on their products,” says Neeru Paharia, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, who studies consumer behavior, moral psychology and brand signaling. “And so cutting those products is meaningful.”

Apple’s actions are particularly significant given the criticism the company has recently faced for making concessions to foreign governments. Last year, Apple has relaxed some of its privacy policies in China to appease the authorities of that country.

Tyson Barker, program manager for technology and foreign policy at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said Apple’s decision to cut off access to its products in Russia is notable because the company has done well with Russian authorities lately.

“Apple has been under some of the pressure that was put on it before this very acute dispute,” Barker said, noting that last year Apple and Google removed jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s voting app from their app stores. Last year, Apple also agreed to show an extra step during the installation process on iPhones sold in Russia, prompting users to download state-run apps.

In doing so, Apple compromised its “core company values,” Barker said. “The geopolitical environment was already becoming extremely hostile. And now this even more kinetic geopolitical overlay just makes it intolerable.