Apple and Google remove opposition leader election app after pressure from Russia

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Google and Apple have both removed an election app from Putin critic Alexei Navalny. Russia earlier in September demanded that the companies remove the app. Refusal would be seen as election interference by the government.

With the Smart Votes app, Russians could see the best candidate to vote for in the upcoming parliamentary elections to prevent a member of Putin’s United Russia party from entering parliament. The app was developed by members of Alexei Navalny’s team. Navalny is a well-known critic of Putin and is now in prison.

Bloomberg, among others, writes that the app is no longer available in the Apple App Store or in the Google Play store since Friday. The two companies have not publicly said why these apps have been removed, although the Russian government has previously threatened sanctions.

The government sees the Smart Votes app as a form of election interference. That is why the government had demanded that the app be taken offline, otherwise there would be a fine of at least four million rubles, converted about 47,000 euros. The news agency reports citing sources at Google that Russia had threatened to arrest local employees of the company.

Apple would to the Navalny team that the app was removed for going against the App Store terms. Apple would refer to a passage stating that apps must comply with the laws and regulations of countries. The Russian government considers Navalny’s team an extremist group, which is why the app is said to be banned in the country. Russians can vote until Sunday.

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