Yandex Co-Founder Breaks Silence, Calls Russia's War With Ukraine 'Barbaric'

Arkady Volozh, co-founder of the Russian search engine Yandex, broke his silence Thursday to become one of the few businessmen from the country to speak out against the invasion in Ukraine.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is barbaric, and I am categorically against it,” Arkady Volozh said in a statement published today. “I am horrified about the fate of people in Ukraine — many of them my personal friends and relatives — whose houses are being bombed every day.”

Volozh was born in 1964 to a Russian Jewish family in the then-Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. He and his parents moved to Israel, and has been living there since 2014.
In his career, he has been focused mainly on developing and exploring new technologies.

Yandex was not his only venture. He was an investor and board member of the Israeli face-tagging company that was later acquired by Facebook in 2012. He also was an early investor of Getir, a Turkish pioneer of quick commerce, and was the first in the world to introduce the 15-minute grocery delivery model.

In June 2022, Volozh resigned as CEO of Yandex and stepped down from the board of directors after he was targeted by EU sanctions.

Yandex, Russia’s Google, has fought to negotiate a complex restructuring with the Kremlin while Volozh and other top executives grappled with the consequences of the war since the country of its origin launched an invasion of Ukraine.

Thousands of Yandex’s staff have left Russia. The Financial Times reported that Yandex hired former Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin last year to negotiate a restructuring that would spin off some of its international businesses. Kudrin was a longtime confidant of Putin’s.

“I have to take my share of responsibility for the country’s actions,” Volozh said. “There were reasons to stay silent during this long process. While there will anyway be questions about the timing of my statement today, there should be no questions about its essence. I am against the war.” 

Yandex's fate has been the subject of speculation since it announced plans for a corporate restructuring last November, a move that should ultimately see its main revenue-generating businesses inside Russia spun off from its Dutch-registered parent company, reports Reuters.

"The Kremlin's fear of a serious tech brain drain is the main factor preventing Moscow from nationalizing Nasdaq-listed Yandex," Reuters reports, citing four people with knowledge of the company's divestment plans.

It's not beneath the Kremlin to seize assets of companies. The government seized the assets of the Sakhalin oil and gas projects last year by presidential decree and has taken the Russian assets of four Western firms under "temporary control" in 2023, among others Reuters reports. 

Yandex is a company whose employees know the value of search and advertising. As Reuters points out, a hostile takeover by the government would spark a talent exodus that could do serious damage.

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