Ukrainian ban on Russian products: can Russia retaliate?

20:30, 18 May 2017
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Opinion

After Ukraine banned access to Russian social networks, email services, online resources and software, the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation suddenly remembered about international law: Moscow claims Ukraine is violating it by imposing such restrictions. When Russia whines over “violations” of international law and says that there is some kind of purely political motivation in Kyiv's decision, it sounds purely ridiculous. After all, Russia made similar decisions back in 2014-2015. As a person who sometimes happens to visit Russia, I see that many Ukrainian sites cannot be seen from Russia - a notice tells you that Russia’s watchdog Roskomnadzor has restricted the access.

The ban imposed by Ukraine is a serious blow at Russia as it limits Moscow’s opportunities

In this whole story, another point is also important: the policy pursued by Russia is hitting the progressive part of Russian society. Everyone knows how Yandex shares dropped on the Ukraine ban news. In other words, Russian citizens should be aware of what the Kremlin’s current policies lead to. The most promising stratum of the Russian population does suffer losses...

Ukraine’s ban is a serious blow at Russia as it limits Moscow’s opportunities at the applied level for its own citizens. The owners of Russian software and online resources, like Mail.ru and Yandex, now both banned in Ukraine, are losing profit. They are well aware of the consequences of such a ban. And this affects not only the Ukrainian market.

Now, following Ukraine, other users from post-Soviet states may try to ditch Russian software and online resources because they have personally seen the example of how the use of Russian websites brings nothing good. In its hybrid warfare, among other things, Russia uses the tools of its "soft power" (mass culture, artists, language, and literature). Although let's admit, no one is actually against the Russian language, people stand against the policy pursued by the Russian government.

Nothing Ukrainian has remained in Russia, nothing that could help Moscow exert pressure on Ukraine

Russia does not understand that, presenting Ukraine’s moves as Russophobia in its propaganda news, it pours more fuel into the furnace of war. And this seriously devalues Russian online resources, because such malign use of history, literature, art, and information technology forces the civilized world to limit any Russian presence. After all, it’s not Ukraine but other countries – the U.S. and several EU members states - who have reported Russia’s cyberattacks, election meddling, and interference in the internal political process. This all the more shows how exactly Russia uses its online resources, thus devaluating the spheres where it had some achievements and results.

How can Russia retaliate against Ukraine? In fact, nothing Ukrainian has remained in Russia, nothing that could help Moscow exert pressure on Ukraine. The only thing was the only Ukrainian library in Moscow, but its director has long been placed under arrest. It would be rather difficult to find other areas where Russia could hit Ukraine even harder. The only thing Moscow could resort to would be the escalation of hostilities. The only path it believes effective is military blackmail. There is also the issue of hostage exchange. Both of these issues are painful for Ukraine. In other areas, both in the economic and political spheres, we almost got rid of Russia dependence.

Olesya Yakhno-Belkovska is a political scientist, candidate of political sciences

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