Apple and Google under pressure from Russia to remove Alexei Navalny’s app

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Apple And Google Under Pressure From Russia To Remove Alexei Navalny’s App
Russia Navalny, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

Apple and Google have been warned by Russia’s state communications watchdog that they could face fines over an app created by allies of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The agency, Roskomnadzor, said their failure to remove Mr Navalny’s app from their stores could be seen as interference in Russian elections.

Mr Navalny’s app promotes his Smart Voting strategy — a project designed to support candidates who are most likely to defeat those from the Kremlin’s main United Russia party.

Russian opposition supporters, independent media and human rights activists have faced increased government pressure in the run-up to the September 19 parliamentary election.


Russian President Vladimir Putin is is hoping to further cement his leadership (Evgeny Paulin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Navalny’s allies have linked the crackdown to the Kremlin’s effort to steamroll the opposition and try to preserve a dominant position for United Russia.

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In June, a Russian court outlawed Mr Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of his regional offices as extremist organisations. This ruling barred people associated with the groups from seeking public office and exposed them to lengthy prison terms.

Russian authorities also blocked 50 websites run by his team or supporters for allegedly disseminating extremist group propaganda, and targeted his top associates.

The vote on September 19 is widely seen as an important part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cement his rule before the country’s 2024 presidential election.

The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through a constitutional reform last year that would potentially allow him to hold on to power until 2036.

Mr Navalny, 45, is Mr Putin’s most determined political foe. He was arrested in January on returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — an accusation rejected by Russian officials.

In February, Mr Navalny was ordered to serve two-and-a-half years in prison for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.

Russian authorities have increased pressure on major social media platforms after criticising them for acting as a tool to help bring tens of thousands of people into the streets to demand Mr Navalny’s release in a wave of protests early this year.

Facebook and Twitter have been fined repeatedly for failing to remove content that Russian authorities deemed unlawful, and Roskomnadzor early this year slowed down the speed at which Twitter can operate.

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