Translated Article: Internet Traffic in Russia will be Rerouted

Sanna/ March 17, 2022/ Stories

Der Internetverkehr Russlands wird umgeroutet by Erich Moechel for

With Lumen and Cogent, the leading transit carrier and the number three are just exiting the Russian market. Apparently, this doesn’t happen voluntarily and, above all, not as quickly as announced.

After the media sector and the stock exchange, the western sanctions are now hitting the Russian IT industry with full force. With Cogent and Lumen, two of the top five international Internet carriers are in the process of cutting off their major customers in Russia one after the other. Market leader Rostelecom, all mobile phone companies and the Internet group Yandex are losing their strongest connections to the world.

On Friday, the London Internet Exchange announced that Rostelecom traffic would no longer be routed. All of this is a first in the history of the Internet, but the statements by the two carriers raise more questions than they answer.

“A few Russian business customers”

The wording in Lumen’s statement on the exodus from Russia has changed somewhat since the first version (March 7), but this statement was always at the top. Because Lumen is ending its “limited operations in Russia”, all services for the “extremely small number of business customers will be discontinued with immediate effect”. Since Lumen is not a local internet provider, there are no private customers in Russia. However, Lumen’s account teams have already started “contacting the few Russian business customers,” according to Lumen’s website.

These “few customers” are, for example, Rostelecom, MTS Telecom, Transtelecom, MTS Telcom, VEON and Megafon, which are the top five providers of Internet access in Russia, which now have to find new carriers to connect to the world. This exit of Lumens, the number one transit provider in Russia, will affect almost all of the country’s internet traffic bound for the United States. Rosteclecom could try to book additional capacities at Internet exchanges, for example in Amsterdam or London. As the statement by the London Inter-Exchange also shows, the chances of this happening under the EU embargo on Russia are extremely slim.

“Ports and IP addresses reclaimed immediately”

There is no explanation at all on the Cogent website for the withdrawal from Russia, but there is an e-mail that was sent to customers in Russia, excerpts of which were published by the cloud consulting company Kentik. On March 3, Cogent customers in Russia were informed that all services would be ended after 24 hours [!], namely on March 4 at 5 p.m. The telecoms VEON (formerly Vimpelcom, AS3216) and TransTelecom (TTK, AS20485) were actually dropped on March 4th, five minutes after the deadline. However, Rostelecom (AS12389) and the mobile operator Megafon (AS31133) were still connected at the time this article went to press.

Like the Lumens statement, this email from Cogent is in a tone of absolute urgency. “All ports and IP addresses provided by Cogent will be reclaimed immediately after the date of termination,” it says, and that equipment would be detached from collocation customers and made available for collection. This refers to routers and servers that have been set up by customers in Cogent data centers. The fact that VEON and TransTelecom were left behind in such a flash looks like an ultimatum that neither Cogent nor Lumen themselves issued, but a completely different authority. This is also showed by the reasons given by the two carriers.

“Increased risk of state intervention”

Cogent cites the sanctions as justification for these radical measures, but also mentions “an increasingly uncertain security situation” without specifying this threat to the security of the company in more detail. Lumen also refers to increasing security risks. The environment is becoming increasingly uncertain. Furthermore, it then says more clearly, there is “an increased risk of state intervention”. It was announced on Friday that managers of the Moscow branches of Apple and Google have been threatened with arrest if they do not immediately remove a popular Russian voting app from their app stores.

This must have taken place before the two companies left Moscow. So it’s not as if all US companies left the country of their own accord. The 24-hour ultimatum to disconnect seems to have primarily affected the providers VEON and TransTelecom. So these two otherwise distinctly different carriers in the Russian market should have something in common that has drawn the ire of Putin’s bureaucrats.

No conclusion, but a follow-up

If at the end of an article the most important question is unanswered, namely the “why”, a follow-up is of course called for.


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