Yandex founder condemns war in Ukraine: live updates

Arkady Volozh, co-founder of the Yandex search engine in Moscow in 2019.credit…Alexander Zemlyanichenko/Associated Press

The founder of Russia’s largest tech company condemned his country’s war in Ukraine on Thursday, a rare move among Russia’s tycoons caught between fear of Western sanctions and retaliation at home.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is barbaric, and I categorically oppose it,” Arkady Voloz, who until last year ran Yandex, often referred to as Russia’s Google, said in a statement. “I must take my share of responsibility for the country’s actions,” he said, without providing additional details.

Voloz, 59, stepped down as Yandex CEO and left the company’s board of directors last year after being sanctioned by the European Union for “materially or financially” supporting the invasion. Yandex’s news aggregation service has been accused of blocking anti-war content, a move the company has defended as compliance with Russia’s strict information laws.

His comments make him the second sanctioned Russian businessman to take an unequivocal public stance against the invasion. Last month, after a legal dispute, the British government removed Russian financier Oleg Tinkov, an outspoken critic of Putin who has renounced his Russian citizenship, from its sanctions blacklist.

Several others, including billionaires Mikhail Friedman and Oleg Deripaska, have made critical comments about the war, without publicly condemning Putin’s policy.

Voloz’s statement also comes amid a growing debate among Russian opponents of the war about how to encourage more members of the country’s elite to distance themselves from the government of President Vladimir Putin.

With successive packages of Western sanctions failing to split Putin’s power base, opposition politicians and anti-war activists have begun discussing new ways to encourage more prominent Russians to speak out against the invasion. These efforts include pressuring Western governments to lift sanctions against those who have taken a clear stance against the conflict.

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Yandex sold its news aggregation service shortly after Mr. Voloz was placed under EU sanctions. Mr. Fallows has described the penalties imposed on him as “misguided”.

Over the past year, Yandex’s Dutch parent has tried to separate its core Russian business, which includes the country’s dominant Internet search engine and taxi-hailing service, from artificial intelligence-focused subsidiaries, which it hopes to take abroad.

The company said it expects the deal, which must be approved by the Kremlin, to be completed by the end of 2023. It is unclear how Mr. Fuluz’s statement could affect its progress.

Although Mr. Voloz, who has lived in Israel since 2014, no longer has any formal ties to the company, he retains 8.5 percent of its shares, which are worth about $500 million based on their last New York trading price. (Nasdaq shut down Yandex and other stocks based in Russia days after the invasion.)

Mr. Voloz’s statement was met with cautious approval by some in Russia’s mostly exiled political opposition.

Does this statement amount to an “acknowledgment based on action?” “Of course not,” wrote Leonid Volkov, a close ally of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei A. “But here, it is especially important to support the first and most difficult step in the right direction.”

Mr. Navalny’s team has adopted one of the most uncompromising stances on Russians they see as supporting Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine, publishing a list of 7,000 individuals they believe should be financially sanctioned by foreign governments.

Oleg Matsnev Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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