Russia summons US ambassador over ‘election interference’
Moscow, Sep 11: The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan on Friday over alleged election interference by U.S. tech giants, ahead of parliamentary polls later this month.
The Russian government has proof of the American digital giants violating the Russian laws ahead of the polls, but it did not give details of the complaint. "In this regard it was stated that interference in the internal affairs of our country was absolutely unacceptable," the statement said.
The authorities have pressured Google and Apple to remove apps of the Smart Voting initiative, which is designed by the team of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The programme aims to advise which candidates have chances of defeating the ruling Russia party in the forthcoming local elections scheduled to be held on 19 September.
Jalina Porter, a US State Department spokeswoman, claimed that Sullivan met with the deputy foreign minister to discuss a range of issues "in support of President Biden's desire for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia." However, she refused to comment on the Russian allegations of interference in its elections by the US tech companies. Earlier this year, the authorities banned organisations linked to Alexei Navalny, classifying them as "extremist and hardly any Kremlin critics have been allowed on the ballot for the parliament election.
Although the other sizable parties on the ballot routinely support President Vladimir Putin -- as does United Russia -- Smart Voting's intent is to undermine United Russia's dominance of the political landscape, thereby casting a shadow on Putin. Navalny devised the idea in 2018 and it has proved to be effective in previous regional elections.
In 2019, it helped opposition candidates win 20 of 45 seats on the Moscow city council. Authorities have blocked most access to Smart Voting's website, leaving it available largely through apps, and it is unclear how widely it will be used in the parliamentary election.