In a move to hit the Russian gaming sector with sanctions, Ukraine has urged about 50 additional tech companies, including in gaming, esports and internet infrastructure, to take action against Russia following a slew of earlier requests.
While the software giant Oracle Corp responded within three hours on Wednesday to a tweet from Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation calling on it to stop doing business in Russia amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Deputy digital minister Alexander Bornyakov showed Oracle’s just-posted tweet on his phone during the video interview, which said the company had “already suspended all operations in the Russian Federation”. EA Games also on Wednesday said it was removing Russian teams from FIFA soccer games.
“More sanctions imposed, faster peace restored,” Bornyakov said of his ministry’s campaign, wearing a hoodie and sitting in front of Ukrainian flags. He said a couple of times a day, sirens alerted them of air strikes and they moved to bunkers.
Ukraine has already sought support from about 50 companies since Russia’s invasion began last week, Bornyakov said. The outreach, which has included tweets from Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov calling on Silicon Valley CEOs to take action, has helped bring Ukraine Starlink internet satellites from entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX and new restrictions on Russian state media by Alphabet’s YouTube and other social media services.
Bornyakov said among the companies he wants to see take action are Akamai Technologies Inc, which provides cybersecurity and content delivery tools to websites.
The ministry has also called on Google and Apple Inc to shutter their mobile app stores in Russia, but Bornyakov said the companies were more likely to block downloads of select apps.
The appeals to tech firms are part of a broader strategy by Ukraine to isolate Russia and get people to protest the Russian action, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation.’
An ‘IT army’ of volunteers at home and abroad, partly organised by the digital ministry through the messaging app Telegram, has disrupted access to Russian government websites and contacted about 50 million Russian civilians through social media, phone, and texts with information about the invasion, Bornyakov said.
He said these online forces now numbered more than 250,000 people, who were carrying out their own ideas. “Its like crypto, it’s decentralized,” he said.
Bornyakov expressed little concern about cyber attacks from Russia, saying their infrastructure was weak. In recent days, Facebook-owner Meta, Twitter and YouTube said they had taken down influence operations and hacking efforts targeting Ukraine.