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Russian state officials think Alexey Navalny's YouTube videos qualify as American election meddling

Source: Meduza
Alexey Navalny / Instagram

Russia’s Central Election Commission has sent a formal letter to Google complaining about Alexey Navalny using YouTube to distribute information about pension-reform protests on September 9, when the country holds nationwide regional elections. The letter was addressed to Larry Page, the CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, Central Election Commission member Alexander Klyukin told the Federation Council’s Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty.

Klyukin explained that “Mr. Navalny acquires advertising tools from Google,” which he uses to spread information on YouTube about political protests planned for September 9. The letter to Page says it is illegal to stage these demonstrations on Election Day.

Alexey Navalny is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence for organizing “unpermitted protests” in January. Police apparently timed his arrest to prevent him from attending his coalition’s September 9 demonstrations against the authorities’ plan to raise the country’s retirement age.

The Central Election Commission’s press service later clarified that its outreach to Google “is nothing more than an explanation about information work,” saying that it mails out such letters all the time.

Nevertheless, Russia’s federal censor, Roskomnadzor, slapped Google with an official warning, telling the company that it shouldn’t make its resources available for illegal activities during elections. Vadim Subbotin, the agency’s deputy director, says the Russian authorities will consider it “direct interference in Russia’s internal affairs” and an attempt to meddle in the country’s “legitimate democratic elections,” if Google doesn’t respond. Subbotin says Google should stop distributing “any content that promotes events that violate [Russian] election laws.”

Representatives from Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service and Attorney General’s Office have sent similar letters to Google. Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it has also informed its American colleagues that U.S.-based information resources “are within an inch of violating Russian election law.” Andrey Nesterenko, a senior Russian diplomat, says Moscow is compiling a list of all attempts by the United States to meddle in Russia’s elections.

Text by Alexander Baklanov, translation by Kevin Rothrock

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