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Telegram wouldn’t give the Kremlin access to its messages. So Russia blocked it.

A Moscow court took just 18 minutes to deliver its verdict.

by David Gilbert
Apr 13 2018, 10:19am

Getty images

Updated at 7:50 a.m EST.

A Russian court blocked nationwide access to encrypted messaging app Telegram Friday, after the company’s CEO failed to hand over decryption keys.

A Moscow court took just 18 minutes to deliver its verdict and side with Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor to immediately block Telegram’s domains and IPs in Russia, according to state-run news agency Tass.

However, the Financial Times said the company would likely exhaust several avenues of appeal, meaning it could be a month before the ban is implemented.

Roskomnadzor filed a lawsuit against Telegram on April 6, after the company failed to meet a deadline to comply with new legislation and hand over decryption keys to the Federal Security Service.

Pavel Durov, the founder and CEO of the company, withdrew his lawyers from the case after the court gave the parties just 24 hours notice of the hearing. Durov didn’t want to “legitimize a blatant farce with their presence,” his lawyer Pavel Chikov told the Financial Times.

Durov responded to the court's decision in his official Telegram channel, saying that while governments have the power to make some companies bend to their will — citing Apple's decision to move iCloud servers to China last year — his company was not in that situation.

"At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales," Durov said. "Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed."

READ: Why Iran’s government is cracking down on Instagram and Telegram

The case was brought in the wake of sweeping anti-terror legislation introduced in 2016 that stipulates all messaging services provide the FSB with keys to access their platforms in order to prevent terror attacks.

Telegram, which claims to have 200 million users, has grown in popularity in Russia and the Middle East due to its strong encryption, which allows users to communicate without the threat of monitoring from governments or intelligence agencies.

Cover image: A photo illustration the app of Telegram is displayed on a smartphone on February 12, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)