Apple and Google cave to Putin’s censors, block Navalny app as election begins

At an Anti-Putin protest in Berlin, a giant sculpture depicts Alexei Navalny kicking Vladimir Putin in the groin.

Enlarge / A sculpture of Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny in front of the Brandenburg Gate at an anti-Putin demonstration on May 9, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. (credit: Getty Images | Adam Berry )

Apple and Google gave a boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party by removing a strategic voting app developed by activists who support the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The app, called “Navalny,” was kicked off the mobile app stores ahead of this weekend’s legislative election as Apple and Google caved to pressure from the Russian government.

“Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship. Russia’s authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled,” Ivan Zhdanov, who is director of the Navalny-founded Anti-Corruption Foundation and a politician in the Russia of the Future opposition party, wrote on Twitter. While candidates associated with Navalny are banned from the election, the Navalny app was designed to help voters coalesce around opposition candidates who are on the ballot.

As noted by NBC News, the now-removed “tactical voting app allows voters who do not want President [Vladimir] Putin’s ruling political party, United Russia, to win the election to organize around a single opposition candidate in each of the 225 electoral districts in an effort to boost the number of non-Kremlin-approved politicians in power.” Since mid-August, the Russian government has “threatened Apple and Google with fines if they didn’t remove Navalny’s tactical voting app from the App Store and Google Play store,” NBC News wrote.

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