Apple seems to have restored App Store access to a voting app run by supporters of high-profile Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny, despite demands from the Kremlin that led to it being taken out of the store last year.
The app was made by the Russian opposition, to help people vote tactically against the ruling United Russia party as a means of trying to undermine President Putin’s authority. A report in March indicated that FSB agents may have been involved in threatening both Apple and Google employees in Russia, in order to coerce the tech giants into removing the app from their respective app stores.
At the time, Navalny criticised Apple’s decision to remove the app, calling it cowardice. Navalny is presently in prison in Russia, having recently had a nine-year sentence in a maximum-security penal colony handed down to him, additional to a sentence he was already serving.
In more recent times, the app had been used to voice opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a conflict that has led to companies such as Apple protesting by ceasing their business operations in Russia.
While App Store purchases remain switched off in Russia, it is still possible for the country’s iPhone users to download apps – and Apple’s unexplained reinstatement of the Smart Voting app can be considered a major gesture of defiance against the Russian government.