Microsoft will continue to work with Russian private companies that are not under sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries over the Ukraine crisis.
According to the Russian publishing outlet Kommersant, Microsoft sent letters to its customers to renew their licenses. Russian news site cnews reports the initiative did not focus just on big clients as “letters were received by at least 1000 Russian companies”.
In a statement to Kommersant, the Chairman of the Russian-Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RAUIE) Vitaly Mankevich (who also confirmed that some companies in Russia received offers to continue cooperation with Microsoft) says he believes that the corporation is trying to establish a direct dialogue with Russian business:
“As we can see, the Western authorities have not yet put pressure on Microsoft to work in Russia. Microsoft is evaluating opportunities to return to the country.”
Microsoft Maintains Russian Business Ties
Microsoft's decision comes amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West over the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in early 2023. The US and its allies have imposed sanctions on Russian individuals, entities, and sectors, including energy, finance, and defense.
However, some Russian private companies not directly involved in the conflict or subject to sanctions have expressed concern about losing access to Microsoft's software and cloud services, which are widely used in various industries and sectors.
As cnews writes, “Russian companies are also in no hurry to abandon Windows as the Linux share in the Russian market in March 2023 was at only 2%”. Mid-term businesses will still have to switch from Windows to domestic operating systems gradually, Viktor Petrov, director of the IVA Technologies R&D center, believes. He told Kommersant that the authorities would force them to do this.
At the end of March 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned using foreign software in the public sector and at critical information infrastructure facilities. The ban on foreign software will take effect in 2025, and a year later, it will also apply to software and hardware systems.
Praise and Criticism
Some Russian business leaders welcomed Microsoft's move and praised the company for its professionalism and reliability. However, some experts and analysts have questioned Microsoft's motives and ethics behind its decision. They argued that by continuing to work with Russian private companies, Microsoft indirectly supports the Russian regime and its aggression against Ukraine.
They also pointed out that Microsoft's decision contradicts its values and principles, such as respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. They cited Microsoft's previous actions against cyberattacks, disinformation, and humanitarian aid related to the Ukraine crisis.
For example, in January 2023, Microsoft disclosed that it had detected and blocked a sophisticated cyberattack campaign by a Russian state-sponsored group targeting Ukrainian government agencies and organizations. The company said it had notified the affected customers and provided them with technical assistance.
Reacting to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in March 2022, Microsoft committed over $35 million to support humanitarian assistance and relief efforts for Ukraine. The company said that it had donated more than $18 million worth of its technology to help organizations providing services on the ground and matching employee donations 2:1.