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U.S. moves to keep the Russian people connected despite sanctions

Yesterday, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a General License to exempt internet communications services, and related software, hardware, or technologies, from U.S. sanctions against Russia. This decision comes in direct response to a coalition letter, led by Access Now and the Wikimedia Foundation, that calls on U.S. President Biden and his administration to ensure the people of Russia and Belarus are not cut off from the internet.

This decision will make it possible for Russian independent media, human rights defenders, and anti-war protesters who depend on U.S. communication technologies to continue their critical work safely.

“The Russian government must end its illegal war of aggression, but denying Russian people access to legitimate information and secure technologies undermines the struggle,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. “We commend the Biden Administration for crafting smarter sanctions, listening to civil society, and encouraging the tech sector to join the fight, not simply cut and run from Russia.”

“U.S. internet communication technologies are key for human rights defenders and independent media to report on and fight Russian and Belarusian governments’ aggression in Ukraine,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech Legal Counsel at Access Now. “We hope that states and tech companies will follow the Biden Administration’s guidance and protect these essential services for civil society in both Russia and Belarus.”

Access Now is actively tracking the digital rights implications of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and has published digital security resources for human rights defenders in Russia and Belarus and in Ukraine.