Russia’s state communications regulator is warning that the refusal by Google and Apple to remove jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s app before elections could be seen as interference in the country’s domestic affairs.
On Thursday, Roskomnadzor ramped up pressure on the Western tech giants saying they could be held criminally liable if they continue to refuse to comply with Russian law.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for later this month, with nearly all vocal Kremlin critics including Navalny’s allies barred from running.
Last month, the state regulatory agency Roskomnadzor demanded that Google and Apple remove Navalny’s app from their stores.
“Criminal liability is foreseen for organising, as well as taking part in the work of extremist organisations banned in Russia,” the regulator said in a statement.
Failure to block the app “can be considered interference” in Russian elections and will lead to hefty fines, the statement warned.
Roskomnadzor said Google and Apple could face an initial fine of up to four million roubles ($55,000) for not restricting access to the app, Interfax news agency said.
“Failure to take action is a breach of Russian law … and may also be viewed as interference by the US companies in Russia’s elections,” it said.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said US tech giants ignoring requests by Russian authorities to delete “illegal content” had become “systemic”.