Ukraine

The Kremlin drops Apple iPads, buys Samsung Galaxy tablets

March 27, 2014: 8:06 AM ET

The Russian Ministry of Communication denies it's blowback from the crisis in Ukraine.

Putin with iPad, in happier times. Photo: Reuters

Putin with iPad and pro-Kremlin youth, in happier times. Reuters photo.

FORTUNE -- Yes, the Russian government has dropped its American-made Apple (AAPL) iPads in favor of Korean-made Samsung tablets.

But no, the change -- spotted by reporters covering the Kremlin -- has nothing to do with the invasion and annexation of Crimea, the freezing of Russian assets or the threat of further sanctions against Vladimir Putin's government.

That's the word out of Moscow's Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, according to Agence France Press.

Questioned about the new tablets -- model unspecified in the press reports -- minister Nikolai Nikiforov confirmed Wednesday that the changeover "took place not so long ago."

He denied that there was any connection to the crisis in Ukraine. He did, however, make a glancing reference to what the Kremlin has learned about U.S. intelligence gathering from the revelations of Edward Snowden, now enjoying a one-year temporary asylum somewhere in Russia.

Nikiforov said the Kremlin's new Samsungs were "specially protected devices that can be used to work with confidential information."

"Some of the information at government meetings is confidential in nature and these devices fully meet these demands and have gone through the strictest system of certification."

That may be a reference to Samsung Knox (as in Fort Knox), the Android-based enterprise mobile security solution introduced at Mobile World Congress in February 2013. The first devices to carry Knox pre-installed were Galaxy Note 3s that shipped at the end of the year.

The U.S. government is also testing devices running Samsung Knox to see if they could replace the secure BlackBerries used in many government agencies, including the White House.

According to a government contractor familiar with the security guidelines released in May 2013 by the Defense Information Systems Agency, Samsung is willing to produce devices that isolate sensitive information in separate containers and separate SIM chips.

Apple's iPhones and iPads are still in the running, according to this source, but Cupertino is not willing to make differentiated models for sensitive or classified information. "For Apple," he says, "this market is just too small to justify the expense of tailoring the phone, for Samsung it's not."

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