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Telegram Messenger Blocks Russia Opposition App During Vote
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's "Smart Voting" app has disappeared from the Telegram messenger following similar moves by Apple and Google on Friday at the start of a three-day parliamentary vote in Russia.
The app, which advised Navalny supporters on which candidate they should back to unseat Kremlin-aligned politicians, was removed after Telegram announced it would "limit the functioning of apps associated with election campaigns."
Telegram's Russia-born founder Pavel Durov said he was following Apple and Google, which "dictate the rules of the game to developers like us."
In a post on his Telegram channel, he said the tech giants had "already this year" urged the encrypted messenger widely popular in Russia to remove information that violates the laws of individual countries or face exclusion from their app stores.
He said that removing election-related apps was related to Russia's ban on campaigning during voting.
"We consider this practice legitimate and urge Telegram users to respect it," Durov wrote late Friday.
But he added that "the blocking of applications by Apple and Google creates a dangerous precedent that will affect freedom of speech in Russia and around the world."
The election for seats in the lower house State Duma, which runs until Sunday, comes after a sweeping crackdown this year on President Vladimir Putin's opponents.
Navalny, who was detained in January and has seen his allies arrested or flee the country and his organizations banned, has nonetheless aimed to dent the Kremlin's grip on parliament from behind bars.
His allies on Friday accused Apple and Google of "censorship", while sources told AFP that the companies had faced public threats from the Russian government and private threats of serious criminal charges and incarceration of local staff.
After Telegram removed the "Smart Voting" app, a Twitter account associated with Navalny posted links to Google Docs with recommended candidates, saying they were their last "remaining" tools.
On Saturday, Navalny's team said that Google had demanded they delete the documents following a request from Russia's media regulator Roskomnadzor and would do so itself if they did not comply.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.
British Food Industry Demands Government Action Over CO2 Shortage
Britain's food industry called on the government to subsidize carbon dioxide (CO2) production during a spike in gas prices or risk the collapse of the country's meat industries.
A surge in gas prices has forced two British fertilizer plants to shut down, stripping food producers of the CO2 by-product that is used to stun animals before slaughter and vacuum pack food to prolong its shelf life.
The shortage of CO2, which is also used to put the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks, comes at a terrible time for the food industry, which is already facing an acute shortage of truck drivers and the impact of Brexit and COVID-19.
Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association said on Saturday that the pig sector was two weeks away from hitting the buffers, while the British Poultry Council said its members were on a "knife-edge" as suppliers could only guarantee deliveries up to 24-hours in advance.
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng was due to meet the heads of the UK's largest energy suppliers and operators on Saturday to discuss the situation. He said he did not expect supply emergencies this year due to a diverse range of sources.
However, the food industry said more support was needed.
"Doing nothing is not an option," Allen told Reuters, adding that given the exceptional circumstances, the government needed to either subsidize the power supply to maintain fertilizer production, or source CO2 from elsewhere.
British Poultry Council head Richard Griffiths said he was working with the government to assess stock levels and implement contingency plans, but warned that food supply disruption could become a national security issue.
Were slaughterhouses to run out of CO2, pigs and chickens would be left on farms, creating additional animal welfare, food supply and food waste issues, he said, adding: "We hope this can be avoided through swift government action."
A spokesperson said the government was in close contact with the food and farming industries to help them manage.