Russia warns Apple, Google of fines over Navalny app

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Russia is threatening to fine Apple and Google over an app created by allies of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader who is in jail, before parliamentary elections take place.

Roskomnadzor, the country’s communications watchdog, said the companies must remove the app from their stores or face fines, The Associated Press reported.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the companies had to remove content that is against the law in Russia. 

“Such arrogant and selective behavior and demonstrative ignoring of repeated requests from the relevant Russian agencies regarding the content designated as extremist is particularly unacceptable in the context of the current electoral processes,” Zakharova said. 

“It would be legitimate to interpret further connivance of U.S. IT-giants to the publication of the banned materials as an interference in domestic affairs of the Russian state,” she said. 

The app is designed to support candidates that oppose the United Russia Party in the parliamentary elections on Sept. 19, according to the AP.

The app works to tell people about Navalny’s Smart Voting strategy where opposition candidates are supported in areas where they could win.

The watchdog said the failure of the companies to remove the app could constitute election interference.

Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption was outlawed as an extremist group over the summer and forbid candidates who were ever involved with the group from running for office.

An activist was arrested Thursday for promoting Navalny’s app and was sentenced to jail for promoting extremist symbols, the AP noted.

Navalny has been one of the Kremlin’s fiercest opponents even as he was jailed after leaving the country in January.

Navalny left Russia, which the country considered to be a violation of his parole terms, to go to Germany for treatment after a poison attack occurred against him. Navalny says the attack was by Kremlin allies while the Kremlin denies the allegation. 

The Hill has reached out to Apple and Google for comment.

Tags alexei navalny Apple Google Opposition to Vladimir Putin in Russia
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