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Meta and Google Helped Putin by Halting Ads, Russia's Navalny Says

Halting ads makes it harder for the Russian president's opposition to get their message out, according to Alexei Navalny.

Google logo going across a smartphone screen
A leading critic of Putin says halting ad sales in Russia is hurting the opposition.
James Martin/CNET

This story is part of War in Ukraine, CNET's coverage of events there and of the wider effects on the world.

Companies around the world pulled their business from Russia in response to the country's invasion of Ukraine in February, with Facebook parent Meta and Google halting ads sales in Russia in March. Now Alexei Navalny, a leading voice in the opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, says that blocking advertising has actually been a help to his political adversary.

"The Internet gives us the ability to circumvent censorship. And at the same time, Google and Meta, by shutting down ads in Russia, made it impossible for the opposition to run anti-war campaigns, making a grand gift to Putin," Navalny wrote on his blog. (Blog post translated by Google Translate.)

Google and Meta didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Navalny is the highest-profile opposition figure in Russia. He is currently jailed and was poisoned in 2020 by Russian security agents, though the Russian government has denied those charges.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted dozens of major companies to withdraw from Russia, triggering sanctions and inspiring antiwar protests around the world and within Russia itself