Google removes Russian opposition leader's YouTube videos

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Moscow : Internet giant Google on Saturday yielded to the pressure from the Russian government and decided to remove videos featuring the country's main opposition leader from its popular video-sharing platform YouTube after the Kremlin accused the corporation of attempting to interfere in its electoral process.

Supporters of Alexei Navalny, the leader of the liberal Russia of the Future party, were quick to slam the US-based multinational company for what they described as a surrender in the face of illegal demands made by the administration of President Vladimir Putin, Efe news reported.

"For the first time in history, the company has satisfied the illegal demands of Russian authorities and has taken down from YouTube the paid ads promoting the rally against pensions reform," said Leonid Volkov, a close partner of the opposition leader, on the social media.

He was referring to a planned demonstration to protest a bill that would raise the retirement age in the country, organized by Navalny and scheduled for Sunday, coinciding with nationwide balloting that includes by-elections to the State Duma (lower house of Parliament), as well as several gubernatorial and mayoral races in cities such as Moscow.

According to Volkov, YouTube had also removed most videos uploaded by Navalny and his followers.

Russia's Central Electoral Commission had sent a letter to Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page urging him to respect Russian election laws, which ban political information in the run-up to election days.

Navalny has frequently used his YouTube channel to rally supporters to take part in anti-government protests.