Co-founder of Yandex – Russia's Google clone – denounces war on Ukraine

Arkady Volozh is working with refugee engineers, of which there are plenty

Arkady Volozh, co-founder of Russian Google analog Yandex, has denounced Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Volozh declared he is "categorically against Russia's barbaric invasion of Ukraine" and "horrified" by the bombs flying into homes each day.

"There were many reasons why I had to remain silent. One can argue about the timeliness of my statement, but not about its essence. I am against war," said Volozh in his Thursday statement, which came over 17 months after the February 24, 2022, invasion.

The former CEO has not lived in Russia since 2014, when he moved to Israel to work on projects affiliated with Yandex. He said in February 2022 "the world changed, and I realized that my story with Yandex was over." And according to his website, Volozh "stepped down from his positions as CEO and board member of Yandex N.V. after serving as CEO for 25 years" in June of 2022.

The date coincided with his addition to a European Union (EU) entity list for supporting the Russian government either materially or financially as founder and CEO of his company. At the time he was also accused of promoting state media narratives and manipulating content critical of the Kremlin. Yandex itself was not sanctioned by the EU, but the board did call Volozh's sanctions "unjust" and "inaccurate."

Yandex's parent company has long been registered in The Netherlands and last year it moved IP out of Russia to that org, and restructured. Russian state media even characterized Yandex as departing Russia.

But within a few days, allies of Vladmir Putin assumed significant positions at the business – a strange move for an entity that was on the path to decoupling from its country of origin.

Volozh said since leaving Yandex, he has been supporting Russian engineer refugees starting a new life.

Many Russian techies fled the country after the illegal invasion of Ukraine, reportedly including Yandex staff.

Western sanctions mean many products, platforms, and services are no longer available in Russia – making it difficult for many tech workers to continue their profession with their preferred tools.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the main factor preventing the Kremlin from seizing Yandex and nationalizing it was fear of further brain drain.

Meanwhile, fears have reportedly developed that Moscow could demand access to Yandex data – such as info from its "Yandex Taxi" ridesharing service.

In September, KGB successor Federal Security Service (FSB) will acquire the power to access taxi data. Yandex has claimed that at that time, FSB will only be able to gain access to data in Russia, not abroad. Of 15,300 user data requests from Moscow in the first half of 2020, Yandex claimed it complied with 84 percent. ®

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