YouTube, Google Play suspend payment-based services in Russia

As Western sanctions begin to pose banking challenges in Russia, Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) YouTube and Google Play store are suspending all payment-based services, including subscriptions.

Google and YouTube recently ceased selling online advertising in Russia, following similar halts by Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Snap Inc (SNAP.N) following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

YouTube channels in Russia will continue to be able to generate revenue from viewers outside of Russia via ads and paid features such as Super Chat and merchandise sales. According to the company’s support website, free apps on Google Play are still available in Russia.

Google verifies the Play billing suspension in a support note on its Android developer website, writing:

“Due to payment system disruption, we will be pausing Google Play’s billing system for users in Russia in the coming days. This means users will not be able to purchase apps and games, make subscription payments or conduct any in-app purchases of digital goods using Google Play in Russia. Free apps will remain available on the Play Store.”

Payment-based YouTube services were suspended in Russia on March 9 at 1pm PST, affecting YouTube Premium memberships, channel memberships, Super Chat, Super Stickers, and Merch.

The new restrictions on Google’s services in Russia expand on previously announced restrictions. On Friday, the company announced the suspension of its own ad sales in the country — though it did not completely discontinue ad sales to Russians, saying at the time that it would continue to allow entities in the country to purchase ads served outside of Russia.

According to Reuters, it’s unclear whether the banking sanctions that are currently disrupting payments on Play and YouTube will also force Google to suspend any remaining ad sales in Russia. YouTube channels in Russia will continue to be able to generate revenue from viewers outside the country via ads and paid features, implying that there is not a complete cut-off, but it does appear difficult for Russians to make and receive payments to/from foreign entities as Western sanctions bite.

Other tech behemoths, such as Apple, Airbnb, and Microsoft, have recently taken similar steps to suspend sales and operations in Russia, uniting an increasing number of multinationals effectively boycotting or withdrawing from the country in protest of the situation.