Microsoft makes Russia U-turn – Izvestia

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The tech giant had previously blocked users from making updates as part of its sanctions-related exit strategy

Microsoft appears to have unblocked access to major updates for users residing in Russia, according to IT specialists who spoke with Izvestia news outlet in an article published on Monday.  

Following the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in 2022, the US-based tech giant announced its exit from Russia, suspending sales and services. Users in the country were also blocked from downloading any updates, forcing them to use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to mask their location.

However, the latest major update for Windows 11 has now become downloadable on Russian PCs without having to use a VPN. Programs within the Office suite, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, can now also be obtained without resorting to additional software.

According to Valentin Makarov, the president of the Russoft association of Russian software companies, “Microsoft is looking for loopholes to stay in the Russian market, which is very important to them. Even if the company claims otherwise in its statements, in private conversations they guaranteed full support for their software.”

Previously, Microsoft had also announced that Russian IT companies would lose access to its software after March 20. However, according to multiple sources who spoke with Izvestia, as of April 13, this has yet to happen.

The tech giant does not appear to be trying to prevent the purchase or activation of new licenses in Russia that have been purchased through parallel imports, one source at a large IT distributor told the outlet.

Mobile Research Group analyst Eldar Murtazin has suggested that, despite publicly vowing to adhere to sanctions, the main concern for any US corporation is money and supporting sales by any means.

“Of course, formally they should follow the sanctions, but in reality this is not the case. For example, when the company was still publicly present in the Russian Federation, they created a special legal entity in Krasnodar, which sold licenses to Crimea, although they officially stated that they did not do this,” Murtazin told Izvestia.

Microsoft’s decision to restore access for Russian users could also be based on its desire to preserve its dominance in the market, another source told the outlet.

While the Windows operating system remains the most popular choice for ordinary users in Russia, new domestic solutions are currently being developed, and state corporations and companies with state participation have been ordered to fully transition to Russian-developed software by January 1, 2025. This includes operating systems, office suites, anti-virus programs, and virtualization systems. Database management systems will have to be switched by 2026, according to Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development.

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