Dutch divest from 'Russian Google' Yandex amid Ukraine invasion criticism; Kremlin takes control
Yandex holds the distinction of being the most widely used internet search engine in Russia. It gained even more popularity following the attack on Ukraine. In response to the assault on its neighbour, Russian authorities repeatedly penalized Google for allegedly spreading misinformation regarding the war. Consequently, the tech giant announced its exit from Russia in August 2023.
The ongoing war and the sanctions imposed on Russia have led to the leakage of Western capital. The Kremlin too has been escalating efforts to "encourage" firms to transfer their factories to Russian ownership, as seen in the case of Volkswagen, and often for little to no cost.
On Monday, February 5, another transaction of this nature occurred. This time, the Kremlin indirectly assumed control of Yandex. As a consequence of the 50% discount demanded by Russian authorities, the Dutch are set to receive $5.2 billion.
What drove the Kremlin's interest in acquiring Yandex?
Following the transaction, Yandex's control has been transferred to the Russian management team and a fund tied to the oil conglomerate Lukoil. However, the Russians are unable to use the original name of the company and search engine.
The Reuters news agency highlights in its report that Yandex consistently strived to maintain its image as an entity independent of Kremlin influence. Notably, the regime has expressed an interest in the nationalization of the "Russian Google".
"Arkady Volozh, the co-founder of Yandex who relocated from Russia to Israel in 2014, characterized Russia's invasion of Ukraine as 'barbaric' in August, which induced some Kremlin insiders to push for the company's nationalization", notes Reuters, citing sources "familiar with the matter".
Upon receiving approval from regulatory bodies and shareholders, the sale will be conducted in two phases. The first phase is set to conclude in the first half of 2024, with the second phase following within seven weeks, adds the news agency.