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Owing to the financial restrictions caused by Western sanctions, YouTube and Google Play are halting payment-based services in Russia.
YouTube and the Google Play Store are suspending all payment-based services, including subscriptions, in Russia in the coming days. According to both platforms, the suspension is because of payment bottlenecks stemming from banking challenges in the country. These banking challenges sprang up due to the increasing number of western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
YouTube and Google, both owned by Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL), arrived at this decision after an initial cessation of online advertising sales in Russia. Other social media platforms such as Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR) and Snap Inc (NYSE: SNAP) had also instituted similar pauses on online advertising sales in Russia. However, YouTube and Google explain that a “payment system disruption” necessitates the suspension of billing activities. In a statement issued on Thursday, March 10th, YouTube said:
“As a follow-up, we’re now extending this pause to all our monetization features, including YouTube Premium, Channel Memberships, Super Chat, and Merchandise, for viewers in Russia.”
Google Play Store users in Russia will also soon lose access to app, game, IAP, and subscription purchases.
YouTube & Google Play Offer ‘Silver Lining’ to Users in Russia
However, free apps remain available for download, alongside past purchases. In addition, Russian YouTube channels can still generate revenue from viewers outside the country via ads and paid features. Furthermore, according to a company support website, everything else concerning Google Play Store’s availability in Russia remains unchanged. Developers will still be able to publish and update applications.
As a workaround, Google suggests that users defer their renewal for up to a year. Regarding this option, a message issued by the company reads:
“The user will retain full access to the content but will not be charged during the deferral period. The subscription renewal date will be updated to reflect the new date.”
Furthermore, Google also suggested that users make apps free or remove paid subscription “during this pause”. The platform added that this option is for applications providing a critical service to users. Google specified that this is for apps that “[keep people safe] and provides access to information.”
Russian Invasion of Ukraine & the Growing Ramifications
Since invading Ukraine in a blatant act of terror on February 24th, Russia has come under a pile of increasingly intense sanctions. According to US President Joe Biden, many of these punitive measures target the lifeblood of the Russian financial ecosystem. The recent payment restriction suffered by Google and other social media platforms in the country is one of the side effects of such sanctions.
Several key Russian banks already face expulsion from the SWIFT system, with many more soon to follow. Western sanctions have also hit numerous business interests affiliated with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his close associates.