Russian MPs and officials still use banned Telegram

Russian MPs and officials still use banned Telegram

Despite the ban of Telegram messenger in Russia, the State Duma, the Federation Council, the Kremlin and the government continue to use it, RBC explained. Deputies from the profile committee explain this by the need to "check how the law is being executed."

On Friday, April 13, Moscow's Tagansky Court passed a verdict to block Telegram at the request of Roskomnadzor (RKN). On April 16, RKN began to block the messenger, which nevertheless remains available to users due to VPN services and the efforts of the Telegram team to bypass the blocking.

The law does not provide for responsibility for the use of the messenger, partner of the law company Savelyev, Batanov and partners Sergey Savelyev explained RBC. "Neither deputies nor ordinary citizens could use VPN and Telegram. We do not violate the decision of the court, because there is no such decision that citizens are not allowed to use the messenger," he said.

However, presidential adviser on Internet development Herman Klimenko saw this as not only a legal, but also an ethical issue. "It seems to me that the only true solution is to stop using the app and chose other means of communication. WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and ICQ are waiting for us," he wrote on Facebook.

RBC looked into the accounts of deputies and officials and checked whether they had taken advantage of this advice.

Deputies and senators

Of the 12 members of the State Duma's information policy committee, at least six deputies used the messenger this week. In particular, head of the committee Leonid Levin (A Just Russia) was on-line. According to Levin, he uses the messenger to "understand how the legislation is being implemented." Levin stressed that he did not install VPN.

"Telegram became inconvenient, because the stability of the work was disrupted," complained Levin. He added that the committee had its own Telegram channel, but after the decision to block it was decided to register it in another messenger. Other members of the committee that were online in Telegram were also deputies Anton Gorelkin (United Russia), Evgeny Revenko (United Russia), Vadim Dengin (LDPR), Andrey Svintsov (LDPR), Alexander Yushchenko (KPRF).

"Conversations [around the Telegram blocking] continues for two weeks, I use it, because it is not blocked, everything is updated. I do not see any problems," said deputy of the KPRF Yushchenko. He added that "I does not use any ways to bypass the blocking, I simply watch from the sidelines."

"If Roskomnadzor has a complaint against Telegram, the court has blocked it, so somehow these decisions have to be fulfilled. While I do not see any execution of the decision of the court," answered the communist on the question whether he would continue to use the messenger.

Deputy Revenko used Telegram on April 17, Tuesday, in the evening. As he explained to the correspondent of RBC, he "does not use the messenger", but simply "checked to see if it is working." "All these laws were adopted before us, I did not deal with Telegram matter at all," he said, adding that he used the app to receive news, not for communication. "The court's decision to block Telegram does not apply to specific users, but to the messenger's administration," he stressed.

At the same time, Revenko condemned the Telegram administration for not fulfilling the requirements of Russian legislation. "I will delete Telegram immediately," said the deputy to RBC. He noted that United Russia had already stopped posted news in its Telegram channel.

The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, still uses his Telegram channel and is not going to delete it, RBC quoted his press service. "We are very sensitive about compliance with laws and court decisions, but so far there is not a single document that would prohibit the use of Telegram in Russia," said Zhirinovsky's assistant Alexander Dupin. "In Telegram Zhirinovsky has many subscribers, as well as voters. His posts are popular, we get a lot of positive feedback. And many of his subscribers do not want to move to another app, so why should Zhirinovsky drop them?" he added.

The commission of the Federation Council on information politics and interaction with the media also continues to use the blocked messenger. Out of eight members of the committee, at least four senators were seen in Telegram this week: Igor Morozov, Olga Kovitidi, Vitaly Bogdanov and Elena Afanasyeva.

Morozov was seen in the messenger on April 15, it follows from his account in Telegram. He explained to RBC that "His assistants work there, they use it as necessary". "But we prefer to work in a public field through other social networks," the parliamentarian said.

RBC sent requests to the other senators and deputies from the relevant committees.

Kremlin, government and state companies

Kremlin officials have not ceased to use Telegram messenger. The correspondent of RBC checked the contacts of 14 officials from different divisions of the Presidential Administration. All of them used the messenger during Wednesday, April 18.

Several high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Communications on Wednesday were online in Telegram, RBC ascertained. The representative of the Ministry of Communications did not comment on whether the Ministry refused to use this messenger. None of the well-known to editorial office phone numbers of head of Roskomnadzor Alexander Zharov is not registered in Telegram.

Deputy Head of Communications and Mass Communications Minister Alexey Volin told RBC that Telegram had never been used in the Ministry as an official communication channel. "But no one should care about what we do as private individuals," added Volin.

Government departments, not related to the blocking of the messenger, have no unified position on the use of Telegram. The head of one of these departments told RBC that he still usesTelegram, since there is no ban on its use by natural persons. Another five federal officials, including one Deputy Minister, continue to use Telegram, according to the data of the messenger.

The last message in the official Telegram channel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) was published at 15:37 on April 18 - it provides an information summary of the Crisis Management Centre Department for this day. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs left last message in Viber at 11:02 on April, 18. It announces the meeting of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl. Viber of Foreign Ministry got about 300 subscribers, Telegram - about 7 thousand.

Official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova continues to answer RBC's question in Telegram. In addition to Telegram, she also uses other messengers, she said to RBC.

Head of the Ministry of Labor Maxim Topilin does not use messengers, RBC spokeswoman Maria Isyanova said. "There is no general chat of the leaders of the Ministry of Labor. To use an instant messenger or not is a personal matter of a Ministry employee," she said, adding that when dealing with issues remotely, the agency employees use telephone and SMS.

The last message in the channel of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) of Russia (over 1600 subscribers) was published on April 13. As reported by the press service of the FAS, after the entry into force of the court's decision to block Telegram on the territory of Russia, the official channels of the agency in this messenger stopped working. The decision to cease the channel would be made later, the press service added, without specifying the name of the new messenger.

High-ranking officials of the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General's Office used Telegram this week. At the same time, the Prosecutor General's Office did not update its channel after the messenger's ban. The official channel of the Investigative Committee first announced the transfer of content to the TamTam messenger, but on Tuesday evening reported the set up of a ‘mirror’ of its channel in Telegram.

State companies still use the app. So, on April 18, four top managers of Rosneft and top manager of one of the largest Russian banks were seen in Telegram.

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