Russia's state telecommunications regulator said on Monday it had begun blocking access to messenger service Telegram after the service's owner refused to comply with an order to give Russian state security access to users' secret messages.
"This information was sent to providers on Monday 16th of April", the watchdog said in a statement. Other users resorted to using virtual private networks that disguise their Russian internet location to continue using Telegram. The service could be unstable without a VPN.
The service, set up by a Russian entrepreneur, has more than 200 million global users and is ranked as the world's ninth most popular mobile messaging app.
In a social media post on Russia's VKontakte, Durov said Telegram will use "built-in methods" to try and circumvent the government attempts to block the app.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov has maintained that the service does not have access to the encryption tools. The ban followed a long-running battle between authorities and Telegram, which has a reputation for securely encrypted communications, as Moscow pushes to increase surveillance of internet activities.
"There is a certain legislation that demands certain data to be passed to certain services of the Russian Federation", Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitri S. Peskov, said, adding that his office would resort to an alternative app the moment Telegram ceased working. He has since been a vocal critic of the Kremlin's policies on Internet freedom.