Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Photograph:( Reuters )
Alexei Navalny's app instructed Russians how to vote in order to unseat Putin's party
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's app that instructed Russians how to vote to unseat Russian President Vladimir Putin's party disappeared from Apple App Store and Google Play Store in Russia on Friday. The development has come on the day parliamentary polls opened across Russia. The polls have been marked by historic crackdown on the opposition.
Parliamentary and local polls in the world's largest country spread over 11 time zones began at 08:00 am Friday.
On Friday morning, Navalny's "Smart Voting" app was unavailable on Google and Apple stores after Russia ramped on pressure on US tech giants to remove it, accusing them of election interference.
Meanwhilel Kremlin has said that Google and Apple conformed with "the letter and spirit" of Russian law by removing the app.
"This app has been outlawed in our country," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said
Navalny's allies denounced the move as an "act of political censorship."
"They caved in to the Kremlin's blackmail," exiled Navalny ally Leonid Volkov said on Telegram. Google and Apple have not commented on the move.
Navalny had appealed to supporters from prison to download the app and urged them to back mostly Communist Party candidates to weaken the ruling party.
With many voters frustrated by falling incomes and not planning to cast their ballots, Putin urged Russians to elect a "strong" parliament.
"I'm counting on your responsible, balanced and patriotic civic position," Putin said in a video address on Thursday.
The run-up to the parliamentary polls has been marred by an unprecedented crackdown on Kremlin critics and independent media, with Putin's top foe Alexei Navalny jailed in January and his organisations subsequently outlawed.
(With inputs from agencies)