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Navalny allies accuse Telegram of censorship in Russian elections

by Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny accused Telegram of censorship on Saturday after the popular messaging app followed in the footsteps of Google and Apple and restricted access to his election campaign women parliamentarians of Russia.

The activists had already denounced that Google and Apple gave in to pressure from the Kremlin to remove from their stores an application that Navalny’s allies hoped to use against the ruling party in elections.

The app offers detailed recommendations on who to vote for in an effort to challenge the party that backs President Vladimir Putin, and is one of the few springs left to Navalny’s allies after the widespread crackdown this year.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov, who has forged a libertarian image and resisted censorship in the past, said the platform would block election campaign services, including one used by Navalny’s allies to give recommendations to voters.

Durov said the decision was made because of the Russian ban on campaigning after the polls were opened, which he considered legitimate and which is similar to bans in many other countries.

Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh condemned the move.

“It is a real shame that censorship is imposed by private companies that supposedly defend the ideas of freedom,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ivan Zhdanov, a political ally of Navalny, said he did not believe Telegram’s justification and that the move appeared to have been somehow agreed with the Russian authorities.

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