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Russian-backed separatist region of east Ukraine blocks Facebook, Instagram

(Reuters) – The Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine said on Wednesday it had blocked access to Facebook and Instagram, aligning itself with Russia’s policy on the U.S.-based social networks.

Moscow recognised the DPR and a second region of eastern Ukraine – the Luhansk People’s Republic – as independent on Feb. 21, and sent troops into Ukraine three days later, citing as one of its reasons the need to protect Russian-speakers there.

“Access to the information resources of the American company Meta, which allows calls for violence against Russian-speaking users on its social networks, has already been blocked,” the DPR’s communications ministry said in a statement.

“In light of this, access to the Facebook and Instagram social networks is blocked on the republic’s territory.”

Meta Platforms Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia banned Facebook and Instagram in March after a court found Meta guilty of “extremist activity”. Moscow had already curbed access to Facebook for restricting Russian media outlets’ access to the platform.

Russia’s state communications regulator blocked access to Instagram in March after Meta said it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as “Death to the Russian invaders”.

Meta said the temporary change in its hate speech policy applied only to Ukraine.

Russia has cultivated close ties with Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbas, since supporting a pro-Russian insurgency following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Both regions receive financial support from Moscow, use the Russian rouble as their currency and teach the Russian curriculum in their schools.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and John Stonestreet)

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