Russian agents threaten Google, Apple representatives with prison time: report

How Big Tech can help Ukraine

Evercore ISI Senior Managing Director Mark Mahaney provides insight into how Big Tech is helping Ukraine during Russia’s invasion.

Russian agents are reportedly targeting Google and Apple employees based in the country with prison time.

Agents apparently appeared at the door of a Google executive's home in Moscow and demanded that he remove an app from its Google Play Store at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reported.

An Apple representative in Moscow experienced similar threats, sources told the Post.

A police officer checks his smartphone during a patrol at an entry gate at the Embassy of Ukraine building in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Numerous American big tech companies based in the U.S. have taken disciplinary action against Russia since Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. 


Google said Thursday that it is now pausing the "vast majority" of commercial activities in Russia after announcing last week that Google ads would be suspended in the country. Russians are no longer be able to sign up for Google Cloud, use Google's payment services, or monetize YouTube channels from views that originate in the country. 

Apple took steps to limit its payment service and paused all product sales in Russia last week. Queues for the metro in Moscow were reportedly backed up as Russians could no longer use Apple Pay to swipe into train stations. 

Latest iPhone models are seen at re:Store in Moscow, Russia on March 05, 2022. Apple announced it has stopped selling all of its products in Russia. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency) (Getty Images)

Other American tech companies including Microsoft and IMB, as well as U.S. credit card companies, have suspended business in Russia.

Meanwhile, Putin has blocked Russians' access to U.S. social media companies Twitter and Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. He has also effectively shut down the majority of independent news outlets and journalists in Russia in an attempt to control the narrative surrounding his invasion of Ukraine.


Putin also implemented legislation popularly referred to as the "hostage law" in 2021, essentially forcing foreign tech companies to keep employees at a headquarters in Russia in order to do business there.

The relationship between Russia's government and American tech companies have grown increasingly tense over the past two years. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Russian government via teleconference in Moscow on March 10, 2022. (Photo by Mikhail KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Getty Images)

Last year, Apple and Google removed an app called Smart Voting, which organized opposition to Putin, ahead of elections held in September after initially refusing to do so. The companies faced similar pressure and threats from the Russian government then to remove the app, according to The Financial Times. 

Humanitarians and Putin critics condemned the move. The Russian leader then jailed opposition leader and app creator Alexei Navalny in February 2021. Navalny was poisoned in 2020 and narrowly escaped death.


Google and Apple say they follow the laws of the foreign countries in which they operate. They have also condemned global human rights violations.

The companies did not immediately respond to inquiries regarding the Post's report.

FOX Business' Paul Best and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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