Russia's Navalny criticises Apple, Google over app removal, social media posts say

FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link during a hearing to consider his lawsuits against the penal colony over detention conditions there, at the Petushki district court in Petushki, Russia May 26, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Google and Apple showed "cowardice" and acted as accomplices of Russian President Vladimir Putin by removing a voting app before this month's election, according to his social media accounts.

Navalny's supporters earlier accused the U.S. tech giants of caving in to Kremlin pressure by removing the anti-government tactical voting app from their stores at the start of three days of parliamentary voting, which ended on Sunday.

Navalny, who is in prison, has added his criticism, according to comments carried by his social media accounts.

"The giants Apple @Apple and Google @Google have complied with the Kremlin's demands and removed our app from their stores. My beloved YouTube has deleted our video, and the Telegram messenger has blocked our bot," he said in the posts.

"I know that most of those who work at Google, Apple, etc. are honest and good people. I urge them not to put up with the cowardice of their bosses," he said.

Apple and Alphabet's Google did not respond to requests for comment sent last week after Navalny's supporters criticised them. Google did not immediately respond to a further emailed request for comment on Thursday. Apple could not immediately be reached.

The tactical voting app, devised by allies of Navalny, gave people detailed recommendations on who to vote for in an effort to thwart the ruling United Russia party, which supports Putin.

United Russia secured majority in the State Duma lower house of parliament, amid accusations of mass fraud from backers of Navalny and other parties. The election commission said the vote was clean and the Kremlin called it an honest vote.

Google decided to remove the app after being told its local staff could otherwise face jail time, one person familiar with the situation said last week, declining to be named.

Responding to that comment, Navalny said in his social media posts: "If so, then keeping silent about it is the worst crime. This is encouragement of a hostage-taking terrorist."

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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