AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS CONDEMNED the arrest of a Russian journalist who advocated ‘smart voting’ against the ruling United Russia party, a tactic that the high-profile Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has also advocated.

Igor Khoroshilov, editor-in-chief of the independent online news outlet Golos, from Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, was detained by police on 10 September 2021.

In a Facebook post, Khoroshilov 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 ten days.

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. 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.”

The jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has urged Russians to vote tactically in the 17-19 September parliamentary elections. His ‘Smart Voting’ website and mobile app has been banned by Russia’s Roskomnadzor communications regulator, which in June also blocked 49 websites associated with Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation on the grounds that they were “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 police and warned that supporting Navalny’s organisations could lead to a 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.

* Source: Amnesty International