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Apple pauses sales in Russia and stops all exports

Apple on Tuesday announced it has paused all sales in Russia following officials in Ukraine urging the tech giant to isolate Russia in light of the invasion of Ukraine.
Ted Shaffrey
Apple on Tuesday announced it has paused all sales in Russia following officials in Ukraine urging the tech giant to isolate Russia in light of the invasion of Ukraine.

Updated March 1, 2022 at 6:15 PM ET

Apple has paused the sale of iPhones and all other products inside Russia and will stop exports into the country in response to the invasion of Ukraine, the company announced on Tuesday.

The move represents the most dramatic action a Big Tech company has taken to economically squeeze Russia. It comes as governments in the U.S. and Europe along with a growing list of companies, including ExxonMobil and Volkswagen, have acted to isolate Russia as it escalates its conflict in Ukraine.

"It's shocking. I did not expect Apple to take this step," said analyst Gene Munster of investment firm Loup Ventures.

Munster estimates that Russia represents only about 2% of Apple's global revenue. Still, that is more than $7 billion in sales for the company that has annual global revenue exceeding $365 billion.

"It's pretty unheard of for a company to stop selling its products, especially Apple, which is not one to weigh into political affairs," Munster said.

In addition to halting the sale of all Apple products inside of Russia, the company's popular payment service, Apple Pay, is being limited in the country, according to a company spokesman.

Apple's move affects online sales, since Apple does not operate any physical stores in Russia, where iPhones are the third-most popular smartphone. Apple's phones lag behind Xiaomi and Samsung in national sales in Russia, according to research firm IDC.

Media accounts backed by the Russian government, including RT and Sputnik, have been booted from Apple's App Store, following similar moves to crackdown on Russian propaganda by Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. And despite pleas from the Russian government, Netflix says it is refusingto stream state government channels.

People using Apple Maps inside of Ukraine will also notice some changes: Traffic and live incidents, two features that help people figure out the best way to travel, have been disabled as safety measures for Ukrainian citizens, according to Apple.

"We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence," an Apple spokesman said in a statement. "We are supporting humanitarian efforts, providing aid for the unfolding refugee crisis, and doing all we can to support our teams in the region."

Mykhailo Fedorov, the vice prime minister of Ukraine, sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to stop selling products and services to Russians in response to the invasion. Fedorov specifically also asked Cook to block access to Apple's App Store, according to a copy of the letter Fedorov shared on Twitter.

Though Apple's actions are sweeping, they do not fully block Russians from accessing the App Store.

"That might have gone too far," said analyst Munster. "They had to strike a balance while still making a bold statement, and they have."

Editor's note: Apple is among NPR's financial supporters.

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Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.