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Apple returns anti-Putin voting app to the Russian App Store

What just happened? Rather than pulling another product out of Russia, Apple is bringing one back to the country, though Vladimir Putin isnt going to be thanking Tim Cook. Cupertino has reinstated a voting app run by supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to the Russian App Store after it was removed last year.

The Washington Post reports that Apple and Google officials in Russia had been threatened with arrest in September 2021 unless they removed Navalny’s “Smart Voting” app from their respective stores ahead of Russia’s legislative election.

The app contains over a thousand endorsements of political candidates and is designed to help citizens register votes against Putin and his ruling United Russia party. A spokesperson for the Russian President previously called the app “illegal.”

Both tech giants complied with the demands, but while Google returned the app to the Play Store soon after the election, it never reappeared on the Apple App Store. But this week saw its return, according to independent researchers and Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov.

Ukraine urged Tim Cook to block the App Store in Russia soon after the war began, and while Apple did pause all its product sales and limited services such as Apple Pay in the country around one week later, it never blocked access to the App Store.

The list of tech giants that have taken action against Russia and ally Belarus in response to the Ukraine invasion keeps growing. Intel suspended its business in Russia yesterday having already stopped shipments of industrial processors to the country. We’ve also seen World of Tanks developer Wargaming, whose Russian CEO founded the company in Belarus, leave both countries last week.

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Navalny Image credit: Michał Siergiejevicz

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