In the midst of the Russian election row, Vladimir Putin threatens Google with a large fee for “illegal material.”
After refusing to remove Alex Navalny’s Smart Voting program from their stores, Google and Apple could face heavy fines from the Kremlin.
If the US tech giants do not restrict access to the app, they could face a first financial penalty of up to four million roubles ($55,000). The state regulatory agency Roskomnadzor warned the companies last month that if they were found to be working with “extremist organizations outlawed in Russia,” they may face “criminal liability.” “Failure to act is a breach of Russian law…,” the regulator said in a statement on Tuesday. This might equally be interpreted as US firms interfering in Russia’s elections.”
Later, Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, warned that the resistance of US computer firms to delete “illegal content” had become “systematic.”
The measure comes just weeks before Russia’s legislative elections.
In order to assure a majority for the increasingly unpopular pro-Putin United Russia party, the Kremlin has initiated a crackdown on regime opponents in recent months.
One of Vladimir Putin’s harshest opponents, Alexey Navalny, has been imprisoned and his Foundation for Fighting Corruption has been labeled a “extremist organization.”
As a result, anyone caught supporting the Foundation could be sentenced to prison for a long time.
Navalny created the Smart Voting software to get around the Kremlin’s attempts to prevent him from running for office.
It permits voters to vote tactically against United Russia, the so-called ruling party.
In recent municipal elections, tactical voting helped defeat a number of United Russia candidates.
In a statement from prison, Navalny urged his fans to download the app.
His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, accused Russian officials of attempting to influence in the elections unlawfully by attempting to restrict the app.
“If anything can be considered ‘intervention in Russian elections,’ it is Roskomnadzor’s attempts to stop the Smart Voting app,” she said on Twitter.
“Get them as soon as possible.”