Google Russia goes broke after bank account snatched

We're shutting down as we can no longer pay staff, bills, web giant says

Google Russia is shutting down and filing for bankruptcy after Vladimir Putin's government confiscated the Chocolate Factory's bank account in the nation.

"The Russian authorities' seizure of Google Russia's bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations," a Google spokesperson confirmed to The Register in a statement on Wednesday.

"Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy." 

Staff working for Google Russia were given a choice of moving to a different subsidiary or leaving their jobs. Most employees have opted to move to Dubai, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google began relocating workers in March, just after Russia launched a full invasion on Ukraine. 

The war has worsened already tense relations between the Kremlin and the search giant. Russian courts have lately fined Google for failing to remove what officials claimed was pro-Ukrainian propaganda, and for airing allegedly false reports of Russian troop losses, on YouTube: in April Google was ordered to cough up seven million rubles ($86,394) for not taking down the aforementioned video content, and four million rubles ($50,124) for the troop reports, according to Russian state media TASS.

Like other Big Tech companies, Google has wound down operations in the heavily sanctioned country, suspending its ad operations in Russia and halting advertising booked globally by Russian organizations. Russian Android users can no longer purchase any apps and services via the Google Play store now that the billing system is paused

A rather detailed notice submitted by Google to Russian officials stated Google Russia was filing for bankruptcy as it seems inevitable given its situation, and that it will not be able to pay employees, Reuters reported.

"Since March 22, 2022, it foresees its own bankruptcy and inability to fulfil its monetary obligations, demands to pay severance payments and (or) the remuneration of staff working or previously working under an employment contract, and (or) the obligation to make mandatory payments within the prescribed period," the note said.

Although commercial operations have ceased, Google said it was committed to continue to provide free services online, such as email and web searches, to Russians.

"We previously announced that we paused the vast majority of our commercial operations in Russia," the Google spokesperson told us. "People in Russia rely on our services to access quality information and we'll continue to keep free services such as Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Android and Play available." ®

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