Allies of Alexei Navalny, the jailed critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, are blasting Apple and Google for removing an opposition app that was set to be used amid the country's elections, calling the move "shameful."
An app aimed at coordinating opposition voting in Russia, which was created by allies of Navalny, was removed by Apple and Google on Friday as the country's parliamentary election began, The New York Times reported. The "Smart Voting" app "was designed to rally support for candidates who are most likely to defeat members of the country's ruling political party," Axios writes.
Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny aide, said on Twitter that "removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship," adding, "Russia's authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled." Navalny's chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, also said on Telegram, "This shameful day will long remain in history," per the Times. And Navalny strategist Leonid Volkov said that Apple and Google "bent to the Kremlin's blackmail" by removing the app, The Associated Press reports.
Neither Google nor Apple commented on their decision to remove the app, but this followed threats from the Russian government. Vladimir Dzhabarov, a member of Russia's Parliament, had alleged that "with the participation of Apple and Google, specific crimes are being committed" with the app, the Times reports. And on Friday, a spokesperson for Putin said that "both platforms have been notified and in accordance with the law they made these decisions." According to AP, Russian police officers visited Google's Moscow offices on Monday, and the company faced "threats of criminal prosecution."