Russia Warns Google, Apple They Could Face Fines Unless Alexei Navalny's App Removed

Two tech giants are under warnings sent by Russia's state communications agency Thursday over an app created by supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Associated Press reported.

Roskomnadzor, the agency, told Google and Apple that they could face fines if they do not remove the app from their platforms for possibly interfering in Russian elections. The app provides education about the jailed Navalny's Smart Voting strategy, which helps users support candidates most likely to beat opponents from the Kremlin's United Russia party.

Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter have already received multiple fines, with Roskomnadzor significantly slowing operating speeds for Twitter. Opponents of the Kremlin, independent media and activists are also facing unrelenting government scrutiny as the September 19 parliamentary election nears.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russian Parliamentary Election
Tech giants Google and Apple are under warnings sent by Russia's state communications agency Thursday over an app created by supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Above, a woman walks past an election banner for Anastasia Udaltsova, the Russian Communist Party candidate to the State Duma and wife of Russian opposition activist and Left Front movement coordinator Sergei Udaltsov, in Moscow on September 2, 2021. The inscription reads: "Let's clear Russia from thieves and oligarchs!" NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

Navalny's allies have linked the crackdown to the Kremlin's effort to steamroll the opposition and try to preserve a dominant position for United Russia.

In June, a Russian court outlawed Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of his regional offices as extremist organizations, a ruling that barred people associated with the groups from seeking public office and exposed them to lengthy prison terms.

Russian authorities also blocked some 50 websites run by his team or supporters for allegedly disseminating extremist group propaganda, and targeted his top associates.

The September 19 vote is widely seen as an important part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to cement his rule before the country's 2024 presidential election. The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through a constitutional reform last year that would potentially allow him to hold onto power until 2036.

The 45-year-old Navalny is Putin's most determined political foe. He was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — an accusation rejected by Russian officials.

In February, Navalny was ordered to serve 2½ years in prison for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.

Russian authorities have increased pressure on major social media platforms after criticizing them for acting as a tool to help bring tens of thousands of people into the streets to demand Navalny's release in a wave of protests early this year.