Russia's Kremlin bans iPhones as Putin's workers fear espionage threat

russian flag on an iphone
(Image credit: Future)

Russians working on President Putin's 2024 re-election campaign have been told that they cannot use an iPhone over espionage fears.

Workers have been told that they have until April 1, 2023, to get rid of their iPhones, with one official quoted as saying that "the iPhone is over." They added that workers should "either throw it away or give it to children."

Officials working in the presidential administration's domestic policy, public projects, State Council, and IT departments are among those affected. Instead, they must switch to using Android-based phones.

The final word

Kommersant and The Moscow Times report that Sergei Kiriyenko, the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, issued the "final word" on the iPhone.

Interestingly, it's thought that the Kremlin believes that iPhones are more at risk from hackers and espionage than other smartphones.

Citing an unnamed source, Kommersant says that officials have been told to replace even Apple's best iPhones with Android devices or something made by a Chinese or Russian company. Interestingly, this comes at a time when countries around the world are banning China-owned TikTok from their government networks and devices over similar concerns.

"The reported iPhone ban comes as the Russian government seeks to wean the country off Western technology with a so-called 'sovereign mobile ecosystem' based on the Russian operating system Avrora," The Moscow Times notes.

Beyond this ban, Kremlin workers also aren't allowed to use smartphones for any official purpose.

“Whatever they are, there is no difference. Any smartphone is quite a transparent mechanism, no matter what operating system, Android or iOS. Naturally, they are not used for official purposes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly said.

Apple is one of many companies that pulled out of Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine, even going so far as to remove Apple Pay support in the country as a result of U.S. sanctions.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.