Microsoft to block access to cloud services and business tools for Russian users

Microsoft ‘s move is prompted by European sanctions against Russia, which prompted a slow withdrawal of Western tech firms from the Russian market.

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Microsoft is reported to have suspended access to its cloud services for Russian users this month in response to European sanctions levied against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Softline, a prominent Russian tech firm and distributor of Microsoft products, revealed in a recent statement that local users would lose access to Microsoft’s cloud services on 20 March. The company shared a communication from Microsoft, conveyed through a private Telegram channel, urging clients to transition to local software providers. Similar notices were reportedly received by other local tech companies, including Softline’s disclosure of a comparable message from Amazon.

However, Softline subsequently released another statement suggesting a potential delay in the suspension of Microsoft’s services until the end of the month, based on unofficial information from the tech giant. Microsoft has yet to comment on the possibility of postponing the suspension.

“This delay doesn’t nullify the imposed restrictions but offers a practical timeframe for data collection and the establishment of alternative infrastructure,” stated Softline.

According to Microsoft’s correspondence with its Russian clientele, the latest restrictions stem from European Union sanctions barring Microsoft from providing certain management or design software, including cloud-based solutions, to entities registered in Russia.

Softline has now published a comprehensive list of products banned in Russia, reportedly provided by Microsoft, encompassing popular tools such as Power BI, Azure services, SQL Server, OneDrive, and PowerShell.

In light of these developments, Softline is advising Russian companies to back up data associated with foreign cloud services to prevent potential data loss. The company also offers assistance in migrating to domestic alternatives, such as Yandex 360, SaaS VK, and Softline Universe.

The gradual withdrawal of Western tech firms from the Russian market began with the onset of the Ukraine conflict, with many announcing plans to either exit or suspend services due to moral concerns or economic sanctions.

Nikolai Komlev, director of the Russian Association of Computer Technology Manufacturers, noted that while Microsoft provided advance warning about restrictions, not all companies took necessary precautions. Oracle’s abrupt departure, in contrast, led to legal disputes between distributors, integrators, and end customers.

Microsoft’s cessation of license renewals and payment processing for Russian companies, announced in August, aligns with its commitment to comply with governmental sanctions decisions, as stated by Microsoft President Brad Smith.

Amazon similarly restricted its services in 2022, including suspending retail shipments to Russia and Belarus, blocking access to Prime Video, and halting new sign-ups for Amazon Web Services (AWS) from these countries.

Despite these actions, many local users have been slow to transition to Russian alternatives, with Microsoft dominating up to 90% of corporate and state clients in Russia. However, experts caution against such reliance on foreign services, advocating for greater adoption of domestic technology.

The sanctions may particularly impact industries like banking and construction, potentially delaying digitisation efforts. Some entities are reportedly acquiring banned foreign technology through intermediaries in other nations to circumvent restrictions.