Russia’s VK Launches RuStore, Home-Made App Store, to Replace Western Rivals as Ban Continues

Russian internet group VK launched a homemade app store on Wednesday, the latest in a Kremlin-sanctioned campaign to create a slew of homegrown digital services to replace Western competitors.

VK, often called “Facebook’s Russia,” said a beta version of the Store, called RuStore, will be available for Android users from Wednesday.

Apple and Alphabet’s Google, the world’s two largest app stores, have limited access to Russian users in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

The Kremlin is pushing for the rapid development of local digital alternatives and has accelerated its years-long campaign to gain control of the internet space, limiting access to Meta Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the Google News platform.

VK, which is partly owned by Gazprom Media and owns a range of online services from social media platforms to food delivery, has emerged as a leader in the race to replace Western services.

RuStore was created with the support of the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Media, as well as Russian technology company Yandex, the country’s largest lender Sberbank, and cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab.

“Creating a Russian app store is an essential task dictated by market conditions,” the Minister of Communications and Information, Maksut Chadayev, said in a statement announcing its launch.

VK said that more than 100 apps were available in the store at launch, including some government services, and that more are being added every day.

VK CEO Vladimir Kirienko said: “I am sure that RuStore will be in demand among both users and developers. It has everything he needs to become the largest Russian app store.”

Faced with the emigration of IT professionals in the early weeks of what Russia calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, the Russian government has promised income tax breaks and preferential loans to tech companies, and a deferral of military service for employees, in an effort to keep them in Russia.

Politicians are also encouraging users to switch to local service providers.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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