© Reuters

A Moscow court has issued a ban on messaging app Telegram, leading the way for it to be blocked across Russia for a failure to turn over encrypted messaging traffic to security services.

The court approved a request from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications watchdog, after an 18-minute hearing on Friday. The ban will likely come into effect only after Telegram exhausts the appeal process over the next month.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov withdrew his lawyers from the hearing after the court appointed it 24 hours in advance without informing them. Mr Durov did not want to “legitimize a blatant farce with their presence,” his lawyer Pavel Chikov said.

Roskomnadzor filed the lawsuit last month after Telegram lost appeals against the FSB, the KGB’s successor agency, which is demanding it hand over keys to encrypted user data.

The Kremlin mandated backdoors to encrypted communications in a sweeping 2016 anti-terror law that experts say asks for more data than providers can supply.

The ruling gives Roskomnadzor grounds to order internet service providers to block Telegram’s domains and IP addresses for Russian users, though they will still be easily reachable through a virtual private network.

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