Apple and Google removed opposition apps after threats of arrests in Russia
The decision comes after months of repression that have removed critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin from scrutiny. Apple employees faced “intimidation tactics and threats of arrest,” according to the same source.
Contacted by French news agency AFP, the two California technology groups did not issue any comment.
“The entire Russian state and even the big technology companies are against us, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to lay down,” Navalny’s team said in the instant messaging application Telegram.
Leonid Volkov, head of the exiled opposition, accused Apple and Google of “censorship” and of “giving in to the Kremlin’s blackmail” by suppressing the app of their online stores.
“This app is illegal in our country,” said Russian Presidency Spokesman Dmitri Peskov, adding that “both platforms have received notifications” that have led them to comply with “the spirit and letter of Russian law”.
Since almost no anti-Putin candidates have been allowed to run for legislatures, Navalny’s supporters devised a strategy called “Smart Vote” designed to support the candidate — in many cases communist — best positioned to cripple the government ruling party, United Russia.
The app allowed knowing which candidate to vote for in each of the legislative constituencies, but also in dozens of local and regional elections.
In the past, this approach has had some success, notably in Moscow in 2019.
On Thursday, Russian authorities had already increased pressure on US companies Google and Apple to delete the ‘Navalny’ app from their platforms before the legislative elections that began today and will take place during the end of week.
Russian deputies held a session on Thursday at the Senate Committee for the Protection of State Sovereignty and Prevention of Interference in the Sovereign Affairs of Russia, which was attended by representatives of Google and Apple to defend themselves against accusations interference in elections.