An app of the Navalny movement in the Apple App Store: "The authoritarian Russian government and propaganda will be delighted"
Photo: Uncredited / dpa
The election recommendation app of the imprisoned government critic Alexej Navalny is no longer available in the Russian app stores of Apple and Google. Since Friday morning, the app can no longer be downloaded in Russia. Depending on the mobile phone provider of the users, the app can no longer be used by those who have already installed it, as SPIEGEL was able to confirm.
In the election recommendation app, supporters of Navalny inform about the so-called smart voting strategy, with which opposing candidates of the ruling party are to be strengthened. For this purpose, users were able to register in the app and find out a few days before the start of the parliamentary elections which candidate in their region has the best chances against the candidates of the Putin party United Russia. Nawalny's supporters are now campaigning for the electorate to be reached via Telegram and YouTube.
The chairman of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation, Ivan Zhdanov, made serious allegations against Apple and Google and wrote that the US companies had deleted the app.
"The authoritarian Russian government and propaganda will be delighted."
Taking the Navalny app out of the app store was "a shameful act of political censorship," said Zhdanov.
Apple and Google have not yet commented on the incident.
Zhdanov, however, published a message that is said to come from Apple and in which the company apparently explains the reasons for the deletion to the developer of the election recommendation app.
Accordingly, the app was removed from the Russian App Store because the Russian General Prosecutor's Office classified several of Navalny's organization as extremist.
Russian authorities threaten Apple and Google with fines
The Russian supervisory authority Roskomnadzor had previously threatened Google and Apple with criminal prosecution and heavy fines if the companies did not take action against the app.
Should it continue to be available in Russia, this could be seen as interference in the Russian elections.
The election began on Friday morning with the opening of the polling stations in the eastern regions of Chukotka and Kamchatka.
During the three-day vote, nationwide 450 seats in the Duma will be decided.
After prominent opponents have been excluded from the election, a victory for the ruling United Russia party is expected.
The Russian authorities had classified all organizations with ties to Navalny as "extremist".
Since then, supporters and donors of the Kremlin critic have been on a par with members of jihadist organizations such as the Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda, and they face prosecution.
Many of Navalny's confidants now live abroad or are under arrest, Navalny himself is currently serving two and a half years in a camp in a penal colony east of Moscow.
hpp / afp / dpa