Google and Apple removed Russian opposition leader Alexej Navalny‘s election app from their app stores on the day the Russian elections begin. The tech companies have been in the clinch for some time with Russian media and internet watchdog Roskomnadzor, who threatened to be fined if the app wasn’t taken away. Russia accused US tech companies of interfering in the Russian elections.
The reason for Roskomnadzor‘s collision with Google and Apple is that Navalny’s organization was declared extremist in June and thus banned. Russia also claimed that the Navalny app would be linked to the U.S. Department of Defense. Close to the opposition leader find Google and Apple‘s action ridiculous and speak of “outrageous political censorship.” Google and Apple have not responded yet.
The app is part of Navalny’s “Smart Voting” campaign, which is currently serving a political prison sentence. With this, the opposition leader wanted to encourage voters to vote tactically and push the largest party, United Russia, from its position of power. United Russia was co-founded by President Vladimir Putin. Currently, Navalny is calling for the Communist Party, the second largest party in the Russian Parliament.
Friday through Sunday, more than 100 million Russian voting holders can go to the polls. It is expected that United Russia will once again be the largest party in the country. Putin has made every effort to silence Kremlin critics in the run-up to the election.
The accompanying Smart Voting home page has been blocked for days in Russia. Authorities have also banned internet search engines Google and Yandex from displaying the term “Smart Vote” in search results.