Russian internet watchdog launches procedure to block access to Telegram messenger

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This is because Telegram has refused to give the Russian state security access to its encryption keys which would give them the ability to decrypt and read messages sent using the service.

The actions of the leadership of the company managing the Telegram messenger pose threat to Russia's interests and security of its citizens, Maria Smelyanskaya, a representative of Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, said during the hearing on the messenger blocking on Friday.

A Moscow court has ordered that chat app Telegram, which has raised $1.7 billion in its pre-initial coin offering, be blocked by Russia's telecommunication companies.

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Tagansky court judge Yuliva Smolina granted a request by Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor to restrict user access with immediate effect. "We will inform you on the developing situation", the messaging app notified its Russian users. "It is telling that authoritarian governments (eg Russia) are trying to block Telegram over encryption, but are more relaxed when it comes to other encrypted messaging apps", Pavel Durov, the app's maverick creator - dubbed Russia's Mark Zuckerberg - wrote on Twitter. Durov said earlier last week the the latest version would have "built-in" features that would avoid the ban.

Telegram has over 9.5 million users in Russian Federation, according to researcher Mediascope. Telegram is especially popular among political activists, of all stripes, and is used by the Kremlin to communicate with journalists, but it has also been used by jihadists. He has since been a vocal critic of the Kremlin's policies on Internet freedom.