(Reuters) — Russia’s FSB security service said on Monday that the Telegram messaging app had been used by terrorists to plot atrocities on Russian soil, increasing pressure on the service days after the authorities accused it of violating Russian legislation.
Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on Friday it would block Telegram unless it handed over information about the company that controlled Telegram, something it said Telegram had so far refused to do.
The FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, added to that pressure on Monday, releasing a statement which said Telegram provided “terrorists with the opportunity to create secret chat rooms with a high degree of encryption.”
The FSB said a suicide bomber who blew himself up on the St Petersburg metro on April 3, killing at least 15 people, had used Telegram to plan the attack with his accomplices, and that it was the most widely used app of its kind by terrorists operating on Russian soil.
Writing on social media, Telegram founder Pavel Durov said on Monday that the communications regulator had also asked his company to hand over the keys to allow the security services to decrypt user messages in order to catch terrorists.
Durov said the demand violated the constitutional right to keep correspondence secret and was also technically impossible. If Russia banned Telegram, he said terrorists would simply switch to Telegram’s many competitors which also offered end-to-end encryption.
“If you want to defeat terrorism by blocking stuff, you’ll have to block the Internet,” wrote Durov.
(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)