Ukraine on Tuesday blocked popular Russian social networks and an internet search engine as it expanded sanctions against the Kremlin for its alleged backing of separatists in the country’s east.
President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree banning access to VK — often referred to as Russia’s Facebook — and Ukraine’s version of the popular Yandex search engine.
It also cut access to the Mail.ru email provider, the Odnoklassniki (Classmates) social network as well as the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity and anti-virus provider.
The bans apply for three years.
Kiev has been gradually expanding its list of banned Russian products and people forbidden from entering the country for either voicing support for the Kremlin’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea or the self-proclaimed independence of Ukraine’s east.
Numerous Russian movies and television series have been forbidden. The ban also covers some books.
Human rights groups have voiced criticism of Ukraine’s decision to apply its sanctions against various forms of cultural entertainment as a violation of free speech.
The immediate reaction to Poroshenko’s decision in Ukraine itself was strongly negative.
“Hello, North Korea,” 112 rolling news channel editor Vitaliy Prudyus wrote on Facebook.
VK, formerly known as VKontakte, is Russia’s most popular social network.
Its official Ukraine page wrote in February that it gets 16 million unique visitors daily in Ukraine.