Responding to the arrest on “extremism” charges of Rostov-on-Don journalist, Igor Khoroshilov, who appealed in a post on Facebook for “smart voting” against the ruling United Russia party, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:
“This is a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression. Anyone should be able to express their views about the upcoming parliamentary election and candidates. The Russian authorities’ attempts to silence any dissent – be it on the streets, in the independent media or social media – have reached the point of absurdity.
The Russian authorities’ attempts to silence any dissent – be it on the streets, in the independent media or social media – have reached the point of absurdityNatalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director
“This arrest shows the authorities are determined to shut down public support for prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny and his “smart voting” campaign.
“Igor Khoroshilov must be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must stop their shameless persecution of Aleksei Navalny’s supporters and other dissenters.”
Igor Khoroshilov, editor-in-chief of the independent online news outlet Golos, from Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, was detained by police on the morning of 10 September. In a Facebook post, he said he had been accused of disseminating “extremist materials” (Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Violations) in connection with a previous Facebook post that referred to ‘smart voting’. He was later put under administrative arrest for 10 days.
Aleksei Navalny, the prominent jailed critic of the Kremlin, has urged Russians to vote tactically in parliamentary elections scheduled for 17-19 September. However his “Smart Voting” website and mobile app has since been banned by Russia’s Roskomnadzor communications regulator, which also blocked 49 websites associated with Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation in June 2021, for being “extremist”.
By early September, over 1,000 Russians who had registered with the “Smart Voting” platform, and whose personal information had been leaked online, were visited by the police and warned that supporting Aleksei Navalny’s organizations could lead to criminal prosecution.
On 5 September, the Moscow Arbitration Court ordered Google and its Russian counterpart Yandex to stop displaying the term “smart voting” in its search results.