Alexei Navalny, a jailed Kremlin opponent, claimed Thursday that Russia has forced Apple to delete his app from the App Store, putting his movement under unprecedented pressure ahead of crucial elections next month, Moscow Times reports.
Navalny started aggressively marketing the app after authorities banned access to his main website and 49 other related sites last month and asked for the banning of social media accounts associated with him.
Navalny said on his blog that Russia’s official communications authority Roskomnadzor had written to Apple requesting that Navalny’s software be removed from the App Store.
“The Navalny program, which is presently available for download from the App Store, is used to promote and carry out the operations of the aforementioned extremist organizations,” he reported the letter as stating.
In June, a Moscow court branded Navalny’s political and activity network “extremist,” thus banning Russia’s most outspoken opposition to President Vladimir Putin ahead of the election.
“Whether Apple will follow the example of the Russian authorities is an important milestone for Apple,” Navalny said on his blog in response to Roskomnadzor’s request to remove his app.
“We really hope that this does not occur since our application is entirely legal,” he added.
Roskomnadzor has not issued a formal response to the referenced letter.
In recent months, Russian authorities have started levying multimillion-ruble penalties on internet behemoths such as Google and Facebook for failing to prohibit unlawful material, including calls for Navalny followers to join anti-Kremlin rallies.
Navalny is now serving a 2.5-year prison sentence for breaching parole while recovering overseas from a near-fatal poisoning. Last Monday, he was charged with “creating a nonprofit organization that infringes on the identity and rights of citizens,” which could mean an additional three years in jail.
After their addresses were published online earlier this year, over 500 Navalny followers were allegedly exposed to police inspections in Moscow this week. The police were alleged to have urged at least one of them to submit a statement against Navalny for illegally collecting personal information.