10:02 GMT +320 January 2020
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    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s website is being showered with demands not to block access to popular Russian social networking sites VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, and IT companies, including the giant search engine Yandex.

    The first petition, aptly called “Unblock Odnoklassniki, VKontakte and Mail.ru,” has already collected 417 votes out of the 25,000 needed for it to be considered by the head of state.

    “The blocking of Yandex, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki is a violation of my rights and freedoms. To many in Ukraine they are more than just websites, they are part of their life. Please consider this petition and unblock them,” one such petition says.

    The authors warn about the negative impact the decision to block Russian networking sites could have on Ukrainians.

    “Many Ukrainians are using the Yandex search engine which is their only alternative to other such systems. The loss of access to services like Yandex.Music, Yandex,Timetables, Yandex. Maps and Kinopoisk will have an extremely bad impact on each of us here,” another petition warned.

    In Kharkov, many Vkontakte users, owners and administrators protested against the decision to block the Russian social networking sites, the city’s website 057.ua said.

    “We are against any bans on the internet. VKontakte is no more dangerous than any other such resource. Moreover, the security agencies can always block groups who publish dangerous content.There are millions of pro-Ukrainian groups active in VKontakte and freezing them out is simply not right,” Dmytro Chubenko, a local social network administrator, wrote on 057.ua.

    Because the ban came so suddenly, the petitions have failed to collect enough votes. However, the organizers plan a series of large street protests this weekend.

    On Tuesday, President Petro Poroshenko approved a decision by the National Security and Defense Council to expand the list of Russian individuals and companies banned from entering the country and doing business there.

    The blacklist now features 1,228 persons and 468 legal entities, including the Kaspersky internet security company.

    In Moscow, Alexei Pushkov, a member of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, said that the only thing “more stupid and harmful” to the Ukrainian people would be Poroshenko’s decision to cancel the visa-free regime still existing between Ukraine and Russia.

    According to a 2016 survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, about 60 percent of Ukrainian internet users are active on Vkontakte, some 50 percent use Odnoklassniki and 40 percent are on Facebook.

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    petitions, social networks, protests, ban, Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Dmytro Chubenko, Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine
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