Officially, the Russian government has stated that it requires Telegram’s encryption keys in relation to a terrorist incident in St Petersburg last year.
Cat and Mouse
The view stems from a posting by Pavel Chikov, head of international human rights group Agora, who is also thought to be acting as a legal representative for Telegram.
Chikov has drawn attention to a letter allegedly sent by an employee, Roman Antipkin, of the FSB (Russian intelligence services) to colleagues on April 18th outlining concerns with Telegram’s objective of launching a “completely uncontrolled financial system” through its messenger technology.
News outlet RBC claims that the authenticity of the letter has been confirmed by two unnamed sources, a federal official and a top manager of one of the telecom operators. They state that Roman Antipkin declined to comment on the allegations.
The creator of the messenger app, Pavel Durov, has so far refused to comply with the request, stating that it is “technically impracticable.” According to the BBC, however, “Telegram has an ability to quickly switch between IP addresses … much faster than Roskomnadzor [Russia’s Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications – Ed] can block them.”
The implication appears to be that Telegram’s founders are proactively circumventing Russian state actor attempts to shut down its services. Some users, however, have reported blockages. So far, the company has been fined 800,000 Rubles, equating to roughly $13,000 dollars.
In March, the Russian Supreme Court found against Telegram’s claim that the FSB’s order to share its encryption keys was unlawful. After a further fifteen days grace, the government filed to restrict access to messenger in Russia.