Apple and Google have just removed Alexei Navalny‘s app — the jailed critic of Kremlin — from their stores in Russia. Notably, this move comes hours before the country is hosting its presidential elections.
A report from Reuters noted that Vladimir Putin‘s ruling Russia United party is expected to win again after a three-day voting process, despite a drop in its approval ratings.
Navalny‘s organization created a smart voting project that promotes candidates that could defeat the ruling party. He came up with the idea in 2018, and the organization later implemented the app, which aimed to promote more than 1,300 candidates at various levels.
In response to this campaign, Kremlin and Moscow court both labeled his organization as “extremist.” Over the last few weeks, the Russian government has pressurized Google and Apple to remove the tactical voting app. On Thursday, executives from both companies were invited to the upper house of parliament for a meeting.
Previously, both Google and Apple were threatened with fines by the Russian government.
After the removal of the app, Ivan Zhandov, one of Navalny’s closest allies, tweeted a screenshot of Apple’s response to the organization citing the extremist label. He added that both “Apple [and] Google are making a big mistake.” You can click on the tweet below and tap on “translate tweet” to read it in your preferred language. ==]\
Формальное основание удаления приложений: признание ФБК экстремистской организацией.
То, как ФБК признавали экстремистской организацией – было не судом, а издевательством над здравым смыслом. @google@Apple совершают огромную ошибку. pic.twitter.com/3AG4tHXdZp
— Ivan Zhdanov (@ioannZH) September 17, 2021
Zhdanov also uploaded a video on YouTube appealing to supporters to make the tactical voting mission a success.
Kremlin has been trying hard to control the narrative around the election. Earlier this month, it banned popular VPN apps such as NordVPN and Express VPN to block access to certain content available only outside Russia. According to a statement by Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, these apps were banned for allowing “access to prohibited information and resources.”