Netflix Latest to Suspend Service to Russian Users

Netflix became the latest company to suspend service in Russia during the country's invasion of Ukraine. The streaming service will no longer be available in Russia and postponed all Russian productions. TikTok also suspended live streaming after Russian President Vladimir Putin began cracking down on independent media outlets in the country.

"Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia," a Netflix spokesperson told Variety Sunday. Last week, Netflix refused to carry 20 Russian free-to-air propaganda channels it is forced to in order to operate there. Four Netflix productions were also halted, including a crime thriller directed by Dasha Zhuk. Netflix has also not scheduled the release of Anna K., a contemporary retelling of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina that has already been filmed.

While Netflix already has a strong foothold in countries around the world, its presence in Russia was already limited. It launched there in 2016, but it has only about 1 million subscribers. Netflix had a deal with Russia's National Media Group to operate there.

In another move to show support for Ukraine, Netflix made the 2015 documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom available for free. The film centers on the protests that erupted after then-President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement with the European Union and strengthened ties with Putin. Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014 and was ousted from power. This increased tensions between Ukraine and Russia, leading to Russia's annexing of the Crimean Peninsula. Winter on Fire was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.

Many other international companies have cut ties with or service in Russia since the country began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. On Sunday, TikTok suspended most of its service to protest Russia's "fake news law," which the government used to block Facebook and Twitter. It also criminalized the spread of any news Moscow decides is "fake," reports the Associated Press.

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"In light of Russia's new 'fake news' law, we have no choice but to suspend live streaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law," TikTok said Sunday. "Our in-app messaging service will not be affected." TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide added that the social media network is only available in view mode for Russians.

Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have also suspended service in Russia. "Our colleagues, our customers, and our partners have been affected in ways that most of us could not imagine," Mastercard said in a statement. "This decision flows from our recent action to block multiple financial institutions from the Mastercard payment network, as required by regulators globally."