On the first day of the Russian parliamentary elections, Apple and Google on Friday, September 17, removed the opposition mobile application encouraging the vote against the candidates for power. The American giants have thus complied with the law, reacted the Kremlin.
“This application is illegal in our country”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. The “Two platforms had received injunctions”, what led them to comply “In the spirit and the letter of the law”, he continued.
The movement of the imprisoned opponent Alexeï Navalny denounced this deletion earlier on Friday. “Today at 8 a.m. Russians, Google and Apple removed our Navalny app from their app stores. That is to say, they gave in to the Kremlin’s blackmail ”, announced on his Telegram channel Leonid Volkov, an opposition official in exile.
A “shameful act of political censorship”
Since almost no anti-Kremlin candidate has been allowed to stand in the parliamentary elections, which take place from September 17 to 19, Mr. Navalny’s supporters have implemented a so-called “Smart vote”, intended to support the candidate best placed to put in difficulty that of the party in power, United Russia. Its application thus allowed users to know which competitor to vote for in their constituency. In the past, this approach has met with some success, especially in Moscow in 2019.
Moscow has been increasing for weeks the admonitions of Internet giants refusing to remove content deemed illegal, including publications of the movement of Mr. Navalny, banned for “Extremism” since June.
Representatives of Apple and Google were also summoned Thursday before a committee of the upper house of Parliament, the Federation Council. Russian officials had spoken of criminal proceedings against platforms refusing to comply with Russian injunctions. On Friday, Senator Andrei Klimov, head of this committee, estimated that “Google and Apple [avaient] drawn the only valid conclusion ‘ of their ” conversation “ from yesterday.
“Removing Navalny’s app from platforms is a shameful act of political censorship. The authoritarian government and Russian propaganda will be delighted ”, denounced on Twitter Ivan Zhdanov, who was the director of Mr. Navalny’s organization, the Anti-Corruption Fund, until his dissolution. “The whole Russian state and even the big tech companies are against us, but that doesn’t mean we can give up.”, the opponent’s team said on Telegram.
Legislative results Sunday evening
Some 108 million Russians are called to the polls, from Friday, to elect the 450 deputies of the lower house of Parliament, the Duma. Half are appointed by proportional list system, the other half by first past the post. With Russia spanning eleven time zones, the kick-off was given in the Kamchatka and Chukotka regions of the Far East at 10 p.m. Paris time on Thursday. The results will be known after 8 p.m. Sunday.
Most of the opposition was banned from the ballot, the culmination of months of repression that began with the arrest of its leading figure, Alexeï Navalny, when he returned to Russia in January after a poisoning of which he accuses the Kremlin. Unpopular, amid scandals of corruption and declining living standards, United Russia has less than 30% favorable opinions according to polls. But training should nevertheless prevail, for lack of real competition, the other parties represented in the Duma – communists, nationalists and centrists – being, on the whole, on the line of the Kremlin.