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Google, Facebook reject Russia’s allegations of meddling in elections

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U.S. internet companies Google and Facebook on Monday rejected Moscow’s allegations that they had interfered in Russian elections by running political ads during the voting day.

The search engine Google and the social network Facebook said in separate statements that it was the advertisers who were responsible in the matter, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

“We support responsible political advertising and expect that it must comply with local legislative requirements,” Google said.

Facebook expressed a similar sentiment, adding: “If we receive notice that an advertisement violates local legislation, we examine it and take appropriate measures.”

Russia’s federal communications watchdog had on Sunday accused the companies of violating legislation prohibiting political advertising during elections.

“Such actions can be regarded as interference in Russia’s sovereign affairs and obstruction of democratic elections,” the watchdog Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

Russia held municipal and regional elections throughout the country on Sunday that had been marked by a wave of pro-opposition protests in the run-up to the vote.

Senior Russian officials have asserted that foreign powers have been supporting the protesters.

A senior lawmaker threatened last week to expel German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle as it refused to attend a parliamentary hearing on an allegation that its coverage was interfering in Russian affairs.

A Deutsche Welle reporter was briefly detained while covering a Russian political opposition protest in Moscow in July.

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Officials in the U.S. have previously implicated the Russian state in attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favour of Donald Trump, who had expressed personal admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. government has indicted several Russian nationals on such charges. Putin has denied Russian state involvement.

Relations between Russia and the West have plummeted to their frostiest point since the Cold War in recent years since Russia annexed neighbouring Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

Russia’s leadership on Monday lent support to a federal investigation into the Russian election meddling claims against Google and Facebook.

The investigation is being overseen by a parliamentary commission.

“The commission has been set up … to consider these issues in a professional way,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

Peskov emphasised the investigation’s importance and said the Kremlin would be awaiting its findings.

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