Multiple reports in Russian media assert that Intel, which ceased doing business inside Russia and Belarus due to US sanctions levied due to the Ukraine war, has resumed allowing driver and software downloads inside the country. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. sanctions, Russian users were previously unable to download Intel software. The reports also indicate that Microsoft has now quietly re-enabled automatic Windows 11 updates for Russian users.
We reached out to Intel, and the company issued the following statement to Tom’s Hardware:
There have been no recent changes to our operations; Intel continues to comply with all applicable export regulations and sanctions in the countries in which it operates. This includes compliance with the sanctions and export controls against Russia and Belarus issued by the US and allied nations. Access to resources that meet driver update needs, such as the Intel Download Center and Intel Download Support Assistant (IDSA), are part of Intel’s warranty obligations.”
Sources close to the matter tell us that Intel did initially block downloads in Russia for the software mentioned in the statement, but the company restored access in the latter portion of last year. That justifies Intel’s statement that the changes weren’t “recent.” The Intel Driver and Support Assistant (DSA) downloads are now freely available to Russian users due to Intel’s warranty obligations.
The Russian media reports indicate that Intel’s initial block on downloads began on February 25, 2022, and it appears to be based on the user’s geographic location. As such, both individuals and companies in Russia couldn’t access downloads from Intel’s official site, so they had to spoof their IP address by using a VPN, use torrents, or find copies of the drivers stored in various forums. According to Russian media, ‘experts’ contended that Intel’s blocks prevented the company from fulfilling its warranty obligations to Russian users.
CNews (Russian media) reports that it could access the Intel download portal without IP spoofing as of January 11, 2023. However, it had to find the download section through Yandex or Google, as the main Intel Russia site is still not directly accessible.
Interestingly, it appears that the driver updates are only available through the automatic download tool. Even though the Driver and Support Assistant software, which automatically installs or updates drivers, is freely available for use, the outlet claims that Intel doesn’t allow direct downloads of the drivers without first registering and creating a profile on Intel’s Russia website, which isn’t allowed from a Russian IP address.
The reports also claim that Microsoft has now quietly resumed allowing Windows 11 updates within the country even though it doesn’t allow downloading the operating system. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update as necessary.
The reports certainly have a feeling of Russian propaganda that paints a picture of normalcy returning to the country — the CNews report also hails so-called ‘parallel’ imports to the country and the resulting proliferation of easily-accessible Intel products at Russian online retailers.
Parallel imports are simply gray market imports, meaning that they aren’t authorized by the company that manufactures the product. Russia has decriminalized and encouraged these imports in the wake of U.S. sanctions, thus avoiding the restrictions for products from companies like Intel, AMD, and Apple.