A voting app, run by supporters of prominent Putin critic Alexei Navalny, is once again available for download on Apple’s Russian App Store. The Washington Post reports, citing independent investigators and Navalny’s stable chief Leonid Volkov. Both Apple and Google removed the app last year after the Kremlin threatened criminal charges against company employees in the country.
The app “Smart Voting” contains more than a thousand recommendations of Russian political candidates, WaPo notes, with the idea of helping citizens consolidate votes against the ruling United Russia party, which has Vladimir Putin’s de facto leader. Pressure to remove the app came in the run-up to Russia’s parliamentary elections in September. WaPo reports that Google reinstated the app shortly after the election.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment from The edge, and it’s not exactly clear what was the reason for restoring the app. The company has also been criticized for taking down protest and media apps in China at the request of the government.
The decision to restore the app comes as Apple and other companies have taken a step away from the Russian market following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Apple said it would halt all product sales in Russia in early March, while main competitor Samsung also halted shipments to the country. But even companies that want to sell phones in Russia are having a hard time. The Financial Times reported last month that Chinese smartphone vendors reduced their shipments to Russia as the ruble’s collapse has made it difficult to sell phones in the country without making a loss.
Activists quarreled that it is important for Western companies to continue to allow the distribution of software in Russia, as it can provide the citizens of the country with important information and ways to circumvent government censorship. Websites have made similar efforts to ensure their content remains available in Russia. In the aftermath of the invasion, BBC promoted and Twitter launched versions of their sites designed for the censorship-resistant Tor browser.