The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan to complain about alleged interference by “American digital giants” in Russia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
According to a ministry statement on Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed that Russia “possesses irrefutable evidence of violation of Russian law by US digital giants in the context of the preparation and conduct of elections to the State Duma “.
The statement said that Ryabkov had expressed the “categorical inadmissibility of interference in the internal affairs of our country” during the meeting with Sullivan.
The statement did not give details of the complaint, but Russian authorities have pressured Google and Apple to remove apps belonging to the Smart Voting initiative designed by the team of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The program aims to advise voters which candidates are in the best position to defeat the candidates of United Russia, the party that dominates parliament, in the September 19 elections.
A spokesman for the US State Department, Jalina Porter, said the meeting covered a “range of bilateral issues” in support of “President Biden’s desire for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia.”
However, the issue of electoral interference was not mentioned, prompting a response from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
“There is a reason: interference in the Russian elections. We hope that this is how the US diplomats report it to Washington, ”Zakharova said on the Telegram messaging app.
US-based internet companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google, have recently faced a series of fines for failing to remove content requested by Russia’s media watchdog and for failing to store Russian user data on national servers.
Following protests in January in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, authorities accused internet platforms of interfering in internal affairs by failing to remove posts calling for minors to join rallies.
Vladimir Putin that month complained about the growing influence of big tech companies, which the Russian president said competed with the states.
Almost all critics of the Kremlin, including Navalny’s allies, are banned from participating in this month’s parliamentary elections.
Navalny, 45, who is behind bars on longstanding fraud charges, this year has seen his organizations banned and his top aides have fled the country.
Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor urged Google and Apple to remove an app dedicated to Navalny’s Smart Voting campaign from their app stores, but they have yet to respond.
The Smart Voting tactic has led the increasingly unpopular United Russia party, which currently records less than 30% of the polls, to lose several seats in recent local elections.
Many Western leaders, including Biden, have demanded the release of Navalny, who spent months in Germany recovering from a near-fatal poisoning attack for which he blames the Kremlin.
The United States has also held Russia responsible for meddling in its elections and for large-scale cyberattacks, further straining bilateral relations.
In response, Moscow has accused the West of interfering in its internal affairs and discriminating against its media.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism