Russia / elections: Telegram in turn removes Navalny opposition site

Telegram messenger, which had initially announced its intention to resist the injunction of the Russian authorities to block a website of the imprisoned opponent Alexeï Navalny, finally deleted this site on Saturday.

The Russian telecoms gendarme had demanded Monday the blocking of this application, an automated site (bot) where voters could obtain instructions to vote against the Kremlin candidates in the legislative elections this weekend.

Apple and Google immediately complied with these instructions, Alexeï Navalny accusing them of “giving in to the Kremlin’s blackmail”.

Almost no anti-Putin candidate having been allowed to run for the legislative elections, supporters of Mr. Navalny have set up a so-called “smart vote” strategy intended to support the candidate – often Communist – best placed to put in place. difficulty that of the party in power, United Russia.

The dedicated application made it possible to know for which competitor to vote in each legislative constituency, but also in dozens of local and regional elections taking place on the same days. In the past, this approach had met with some success, especially in Moscow in 2019.

But with its demise of Telegram messenger, which is particularly popular in Russia, the app is no longer available to those who would like to vote against the Kremlin candidates.

The app disappeared after Telegram announced that it would “limit the operation of bots associated with the election campaign.”

Telegram founder Pavel Durov of Russia said he was content to follow Apple and Google, “which set the rules of the game for developers like us.”

But he still considered that “the fact that Apple and Google agree to block applications sets a dangerous precedent which will affect freedom of speech in Russia and in the world”.

After its app disappeared from Telegram, Navalny supporters posted links on Twitter to Google Docs recommending candidates, their only tool remaining, they said.

The elections, legislative, but also local and regional, began on Friday and last until Sunday evening.

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