Apple and Google under fire for political interference, as they are pressured to remove Navalny’s app

Apple and Google have come under fire for political interference after they both removed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s tactical voting app from their stores under pressure from the Kremlin.

The move comes as Russians today prepared to elect a new parliament in a three-day election that is widely believed to be fixed.

Allies of Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest domestic opponent, planned to use the mobile app to stage a tactical voting campaign to deal a blow to United Russia, which is expected to win the election.

But Russia this month demanded that Apple and Google remove the app from their stores, saying a refusal to do so would be considered interference in the parliamentary elections.

Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally abroad, said the removal today amounted to political censorship, describing it as “a disgraceful act” that would “excite” Russia’s “authoritarian government and propaganda.” The move was welcomed by the Kremlin.

Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Apple and Google have come under fire for political interference after they both removed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s tactical voting app from their stores under pressure from the Kremlin.

Navalny's allies planned to use the mobile app (pictured) to stage a tactical voting campaign to deal a blow to United Russia, which is expected to win the election.

Navalny’s allies planned to use the mobile app (pictured) to stage a tactical voting campaign to deal a blow to United Russia, which is expected to win the election.

Russia this month demanded that Apple remove the app

The Kremlin also pressured Google to remove the app from the store

Russia this month demanded that Apple and Google remove the app from their stores, saying a refusal to do so would be treated as meddling in parliamentary elections.

Zhdanov confirmed the news by posting a letter from Apple online.

“We are writing to let you know that your app will be removed from the Russian App Store for containing content that is illegal in Russia,” the message read, citing the “extremist” designation Navalny’s organization received earlier this year. .

Zhdanov also said his team would consider a legal appeal against the tech companies’ decision.

On Thursday, Russia said official approaches had been made to the directors of the two companies threatening significant fines if they failed to remove the app, which Moscow considers illegal.

“We will now consider imposing sales fines on those companies that systematically violate Roskomnadzor’s demands,” said Interfax news agency yesterday Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of state communications regulator Roskomnadzor.

Subbotin named Facebook, Twitter and Google as some of the companies at risk.

Roskomnadzor now has “substantial” tools capable of enforcing the requirements of Russian law, he said, without giving further details.

Both companies were fined earlier this year – Apple was charged $12 million for allegedly possessing a monopoly in the app market, while Google was slapped with a slap on the wrist when regulators demanded that social media sites remove content Russia is banned.

Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally abroad, (pictured with Navalny's wife Yuliya) said the removal today amounted to political censorship, describing it as

Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally abroad, (pictured with Navalny’s wife Yuliya) said the removal today amounted to political censorship, describing it as “a disgraceful act” that Russia’s “authoritarian government and propaganda” wind up’.

The app disappeared today as Russians prepared to elect a new parliament in a three-day election widely believed to be final (pictured, a woman votes in Krasnoyarsk)

The app disappeared today as Russians prepared to elect a new parliament in a three-day election widely believed to be final (pictured, a woman votes in Krasnoyarsk)

Earlier on Thursday, lawmaker Andrei Klimov said Russian prosecutors had officially contacted Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Sept. 9 and told them to stop violating Russian law by continuing to allow people access to Navalny’s banned tactical voting app on their companies. ‘ stores.

“The actions of (Apple and Google) in the Russian elections are seen as illegal and directly linked to interference in the purely internal affairs of Russia,” Interfax quoted Klimov as saying.

Company representatives in Russia were warned that they could face criminal charges if the tech giants failed to comply with the Kremlin’s demands.

“Entities and individuals associated with Apple and Google should be aware that the knowingly illegal actions and criminal inaction demonstrated after receiving relevant warnings from Russian officials will always have legal consequences, up to criminal charges,” said Vladimir Dzhabarov. Federation Council member yesterday, Interfax.

Kremlin officials also put pressure on the US ambassador, who was told that “the Russian site holds irrefutable evidence of violations of Russian laws by US ‘digital giants'” ahead of the Russian election.

The ruling United Russia party is expected to win this weekend's election despite a slump in ratings after its biggest crackdown on Kremlin critics in years (pictured, people wait to vote in Krasnoyarsk)

The ruling United Russia party is expected to win this weekend’s election despite a slump in ratings after its biggest crackdown on Kremlin critics in years (pictured, people wait to vote in Krasnoyarsk)

The Public Election Observatory in Moscow oversees the elections, which will take place in Russia this weekend

The Public Election Observatory in Moscow oversees the elections, which will take place in Russia this weekend

Meanwhile, Apple’s AppStore went down earlier this week and GlobalCheck, a group that monitors website accessibility in Russia, said late Wednesday that telecom operators had started blocking access to Google Docs.

And internet services have come under increasing pressure this week ahead of the September 17-19 parliamentary vote in Russia.

Russian authorities have said foreign companies are hindering their efforts to block virtual private networks (VPNs) and online resources linked to imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Roskomnadzor has also successfully slowed down Twitter’s speed since March, hindered a number of VPN providers from working, and blocked key DNS (Domain Name System) services for several hours last week.

“Now Russia is way ahead of China in blocking capabilities,” IT expert Mikhail Klimarev said.

The ruling United Russia party is expected to win this weekend’s elections, despite a slump in ratings following its biggest crackdown on Kremlin critics in years.

.