On the first day of the legislative elections, the Kremlin announced on Friday that the US giants Apple and Google complied with Russian law by deleting the opposition mobile application designed to encourage voting against ruling party candidates.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “this application is illegal in our country. The two platforms received court orders” that prompted them to comply with “the spirit and letter of the law,” according to AFP.
Navalny’s allies app
It is noteworthy that the application created by allies of the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny It disappeared from the software download sites of Apple and Google, today, Friday, in conjunction with the opening of polling stations across the country for 3 days to vote in the legislative elections.
It comes at a time when Russian authorities are seeking to prevent the use of smart voting, a project designed by Navalny to promote candidates who are likely to beat Kremlin-backed candidates, according to the Associated Press.
Alexei Navalny (Reuters)
‘Big mistake and blackmail’
Ivan Gdanov, Navalny’s close ally, posted an image on a computer screen of what appeared to be an email from Apple explaining why the app should be removed from its online store. The letter is based on the classification of the anti-corruption institution headed by Navalny, as an extremist institution, and other allegations of interference in the elections. “Google and Apple are making a big mistake,” Gdanov wrote.
Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny’s most prominent allies and chief strategist at the Russian opposition group, said in a Facebook post that the companies had “subjected to the Kremlin’s blackmail”.
The Russian legislative elections, in which voting ends next Sunday, are widely seen as an important part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to consolidate his grip on power before the presidential elections scheduled for 2024, for which control of parliament is an essential premise.
Pressure and threat of fines
It is reported that Apple and Google have come under pressure in recent weeks, with Russian officials urging the two companies to remove the application, which includes the smart voting system, and claiming that non-compliance would be interpreted as interference in the work of the elections, threatening to impose fines.
The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan last week, to clarify the situation.
John Sullivan (archive from AFP)
On Thursday, representatives of Apple and Google were invited to attend a meeting in the Federation Council – the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. In a statement after the meeting, the council said that Apple had agreed to cooperate with the Russian authorities.
It is noteworthy that the Russian authorities have launched a massive campaign against Navalny’s allies and supporters in recent months, in an attempt to prevent smart voting.
Criminal charges and ban
The Russian authorities have also brought criminal charges against key allies Alexei Navalnyand banned the institution he created to fight corruption, as well as a network of regional offices, as extremist organizations.
Those actions have subjected hundreds of people associated with the establishment to prosecution, and many of Navalny’s top aides have left the country. About 50 websites run by his team were blocked, and dozens of regional offices were closed.
After recovering from nerve agent poisoning last year, Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of his release in a previous conviction. The opposition said the poisoning and the subsequent conviction were politically motivated – charges the Kremlin denies.