Internal bandaging of Yandex, the “Russian Google”, after the invasion of Ukraine

“Putin broke the best Russian technology company”writes a business magazine Forbes : In less than a week, the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused a spectacular collapse in the value of Yandex, the “Russian Google”. Shares of Yandex, which is listed not in Moscow but on Nasdaq, the New York Technology Stock Exchange, were suspended on Monday, Feb. 28, after the Russian flagship’s valuation split nearly five-fold.

Yandex is a widely used search engine not only in Russia (45% market share, just after Google), but also in the Russian-speaking world. It is, like its American counterpart, a giant company offering dozens of services (mapping, email, online payments, telemedicine, delivery, smartphones, etc.).

Neither Yandex nor its top executives are currently subject to sanctions from the European Union or the United States, but economic sanctions and the depreciation of the ruble have scared away foreign investors – Uber, which operates the VTC service in Russia with Yandex, announced this. the acceleration of his exit from the capital, and that three of his leaders, who are on the board of directors of the Russian giant, are leaving their functions.

ambiguous leadership position

Because Yandex also plays a role in the Kremlin’s war effort. With the beginning of the invasion and the tough tightening of censorship of Russian media, a banner in Russian appeared on the Yandex “news” page: “Some content on the Internet contains false information. Pay attention. » The portal’s “news” page, which is widely used in Russia, also filters out articles that talk about “war” – the media and internet regulator forbid the use of this term to refer to an invasion that should be qualified as“special military operation”.

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This legal censorship seems to have caused an internal commotion. On Facebook, several Yandex employees, including at least two high-ranking officials, posted messages expressing their disagreement. ” at war “. Lev Gershenzon, the former head of the news department at Yandex, who left the company a few years ago and lives in Germany, urged his former colleagues to quit; the team’s manager, who lives in London and was previously a journalist, posted her resignation letter on Facebook and now wears a Ukrainian flag in her profile picture. “Since Yandex does not display on its page the fact that Russian troops are bombing Ukrainian cities and killing civilians, please direct meshe wrote. I believe that the actions of the company are crimes and that they are involved in a war. »

Founder of silent Yandex

Faced with this internal rebellion, the company’s management made their first appearance on Wednesday. In a lengthy Facebook post, Tigran Khudaverdyan, deputy CEO on the board of directors, tries to justify the company’s decisions while voicing some concern:

“War is a monster. Today many people ask [à Yandex] immediately get on the armored personnel carrier and say loudly and clearly what its position is. I believe that any action should be driven not by emotional impulses, but by key priorities. »

Tigran Khudaverdyan explains that his priorities are ensuring the safety of employees, as well as maintaining access to Yandex services. “not for business, but because these are services that people living in rural areas need, such as electricity or water. (…) Their taxis must arrive, their purchases must be delivered to them, the infrastructure must work. That’s why we can’t get on an armored personnel carrier. » In the comments, several posts in Russian mention him as “employee”.

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Yandex founder Arkady Voloi has remained silent since the start of the Russian offensive. A gifted businessman with a reputation for being politically savvy, he is one of the few Russian new technology entrepreneurs who stayed in Moscow after making a fortune, where his modest lifestyle and his willingness to stay away from the Kremlin without worrying about the enemy set him apart. from others. . In one week, his personal fortune, estimated at 2.5 billion euros, was divided into five.

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