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

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

Moscow recognized the two separatist regions as independent on February 21 and three days later launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in what is being called a “special military operation” aimed in part 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 Ministry of Communications said in a statement.

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

In a separate statement, the LNR’s Minister of Communications said that 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 restricted access to Facebook to restrict Russian media 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 Russian intruders”.

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

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

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

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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