Google, Facebook Set to Benefit as Ukraine Bans Russian Social Media, TV Sites

Kiev skyline - Getty - H 2017
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The Ukrainian ban covers competing Russian services, such as search engine Yandex and social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki.

International online giants, such as Google and Facebook, are set to benefit from sanctions introduced on Tuesday by Ukraine against major Russian media companies, including TV networks and social media.

Under a decree signed by Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko and effective immediately, access to the main Russian-language search engine Yandex, major social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki and web sites of broadcasters VGTRK, TV Center, NTV and Zvezda, is blocked.

Although it is not clear why the sanctions, which also include entry bans and asset freezes slapped on a number of Russian individuals and non-media companies, were introduced specifically at this point, relations between the two countries have been deteriorating for the last few months.

Last week's introduction of visa-free travel to the European Union for Ukrainians was largely viewed as a point of no return.

The introduction of sanctions will create new opportunities for international online giants, eager to replace their Russian competitors in the Ukrainian market.

"Foreign services, such as Google, will gain as they are getting another portion of the Ukrainian market," Dmitry Marinichev, Russia's ombudsman for the internet, was quoted as saying by the local business daily Kommersant.

Google and Yandex have been fiercely competing for Russian-speaking users over the last few years. Google's Russian office declined to comment.

The ban also covers KinoPoisk, the Russian-language equivalent of IMDB, owned by Yandex.