Apple and Google removed a tactical-voting app from their app stores just as the Russian election began, Putin opposition says

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Apple and Google removed a tactical-voting app from their app stores just as the Russian election began, Putin opposition says
A Russian service member walks out of a voting booth before casting a ballot at a polling station during a three-day parliamentary election in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, Russia September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Tatiana Meel
  • Alexei Navalny launched an app to help Russians vote against Vladimir Putin's party.
  • Apple and Google removed the app from their app stores as Russia's parliamentary election started.
  • One ally of Navalny said the removal was a "shameful act of political censorship."

A tactical-voting app created by Russian opposition activists has been kicked off Apple and Google's app stores just as Russia's 2021 parliamentary election gets underway, allies of opposition politician Alexei Navalny said.

The so-called "Smart Voting" app told users which local candidate to vote for, and who stood the best chance of winning against Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

Google declined to comment to Insider. Apple did not immediately respond when contacted for comment by Insider.

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Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, tweeted on Friday that the removal of the app was a "shameful act of political censorship."

Zhdanov also shared what appeared to be a message from Apple on why it had removed the app. According to a screenshot of the message shared by Zhdanov, Apple said it had received a complaint from Russia's media authority, Roskomnadzor, saying Navalny's organizations were classified as extremist.

It also said the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation and of the City of Moscow had declared the app to be in violation of laws banning election interference, per the screenshot.

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Roskomnadzor first ordered Apple and Google to take the app down in August.

A source close to Google in Russia told Bloomberg that the company removed the app after Russian officials threatened to imprison local employees.

In a statement to Bloomberg, a Kremlin spokesperson welcomed the takedown, and said "these applications are illegal in the territory of our country."

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Voting in Russia's parliamentary election started on Friday, and will last until Sunday.

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