Google has refused to deny that it's pulling its engineering team out of Russia, leaving only sales and marketing people behind.
The reported shuttering of Google's engineering office comes after restrictive laws were passed by the Russian parliament that will force the web giant, and others like it, to keep all data on Russians in data centers within their nation's boundaries.
The rules – which also apply to Facebook, Twitter, and other "organizers of information distribution" – mean President Putin's government will have the right to remove "offensive" material from servers in Russia, as well as anything that the state decides is in breach of election rules.
The regulations also require any blogger with more than 3,000 readers to register with the state.
The laws were passed in July, and the Russian government is getting impatient: in September, senior officials warned Google and others that the government is still waiting for Western firms to acknowledge that they will abide by the new rules, and threatened to invoke financial and other penalties if they don't knuckle under.
Google does have a growing presence in the Russian market. While it's still firmly in second place on search to Russian website Yandex, its market share is growing steadily. Android is hugely popular in Russia, and the Chocolate Factory's code powers more than two-thirds of smartphones in the country.
If Google is planning on setting up a data center in Putin's motherland – or buying space in a colocation warehouse – then having engineers around to help out would be useful. Google issued a carefully bland non-denial denial on the matter.
"We are deeply committed to our Russian users and customers and we have a dedicated team in Russia working to support them,” was all the firm would say to El Reg.
A source close to the ad giant have not been so circumspect. According to one anonymous person, Google isn't disengaging from Russia, just trimming its operations. Similar engineering withdrawals have occurred in Sweden, Finland and Norway, Bloomberg's mole said, and Google is actually planning to increase investment in Russia next year.
If Putin and his pals start cracking the whip on keeping Russian bytes stored within the motherland's borders, Google's plans may change, or – more likely – Google and the government can come to some sort of a private agreement on the matter in a similar way to the US giant's Chinese bargain.
It will all come down to the endless battle between profits and principles. ®
Article image: President Putin.