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Telegram declares reasons behind the removal of Russian fines on some tech giants unclear

On Wednesday, Jan 3, 2024, a couple of tech giants were released from Russia’s list of debtors in the state bailiffs database. These companies faced some fines that have since been dropped.

One of these companies, Telegram, today highlighted that it is not aware of the reasons why the fines were removed. Other tech giants that previously had charges imposed on them were Google, Meta, TikTok, and YouTube.

According to Reuters, a Telegram spokesperson explained that it could be due to the lack of company-owned assets in Russia. They also clarified that without any offices or workers there, they are unaware as to why the fines were dropped.

“Telegram has no assets, offices, employees, or equipment in Russia. Without any presence there, we have no visibility as to why the fines against Telegram and the other companies were dropped."

The spokesperson also argued that according to certain Russian news agencies, these fines were removed because the bailiffs were unable to find seizable assets to charge the fine against.
Despite this, Telegram is still a widely used platform in Russia.

While companies such as Google and Meta had the charges dropped, companies like Twitch and X are still facing them. More specifically, these fines account for a total of 23 million rubles ($251,778.86) and 51 million rubles ($558,292.26) respectively.

After the Russian attack on Ukraine, several Western social media platforms refused to provide services in Russia. In January 2022, Meta also presented a pro-Ukraine stance suggesting that the content moderated on Facebook does not promote Russian propaganda.

In October 2022, Meta faced strong retaliation from the Russian government as it became a part of the “extremists” list and was consequently banned in the country.

As for Google, it faced several heavy fines and had tensions with the Russian government. In May 2022, 7.7 billion rubles ($84,291,183) worth of company assets of Google were seized by Russia.
Google Russia also filed for bankruptcy after its bank account was forcibly seized by Russian authorities. Eventually, in October 2023, the Russian subsidiary was declared bankrupt.

Hence, with several incidents in history where Western companies were at odds with the Russian authorities, it is interesting to see the removal of the fines.

As of now, neither the state bailiffs have commented on the issue nor did we see any of the companies involved, besides Telegram, commenting on the issue.

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