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Facebook, Instagram’s Access Blocked in Russian-Backed Separatist Regions in East Ukraine

The Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday they had blocked access to Facebook and Instagram, aligning themselves with Russia’s policy on the US-based social networks.

Moscow recognised the two separatist regions as independent on February 21, and three days later launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in what it calls a “special military operation” aimed partly at protecting Russian-speakers there.

“Access to the information resources of the American company Meta, which allows calls for violence against Russian-speaking users on its social networks, has already been blocked,” the DNR’s communications ministry said in a statement.

“In light of this, access to the Facebook and Instagram social networks is blocked on the republic’s territory.”

In a separate statement, the LNR communications ministry said it had also blocked access to the social networks.

Meta Platforms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia banned Facebook and Instagram in March after a court found Meta guilty of “extremist activity”. Moscow had already curbed access to Facebook for restricting Russian media outlets’ access to the platform.

Russia’s state communications regulator blocked access to Instagram in March after Meta said it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as “Death to the Russian invaders”.

Meta said the temporary change in its hate speech policy applied only to Ukraine.

Russia has forged close ties with Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbas, since supporting a pro-Russian insurgency there in 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The two regions receive financial support from Moscow, use the Russian rouble as their currency and teach the Russian curriculum in their schools.

© Thomson Reuters 2022



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