March 22, 2023

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Yandex, the “Russian Google”, is divesting itself of its media activities

Yandex, the “Russian Google”, announced on Tuesday the sale of its media operations to VK, the largest Russian social network, in a move that threatens to strengthen information controls amid a military offensive in Ukraine.

Yandex “has reached an agreement with VK Group, one of the largest social networks, which will provide VK with the domain name of its +News+ and +Zen+ sites” as well as its homepage, according to a press release. From the group.

VK Group, the owner of VKontakte, the “Russian Facebook”, confirmed in a statement that it will become the owner of Yandex news sites.

As part of the transaction, which must be finalized by 2023, VK will exchange all shares in food delivery service Delivery Club to Yandex.

The deal will significantly strengthen the weight in the information landscape of VK, the group headed by Vladimir Krienko, the son of Sergei Krienko, a member of the presidential administration and close to Vladimir Putin.

Owner of the first search portal in the Russian-speaking region, the group is also ubiquitous in the taxis and food delivery sector, Yandex is registered in the Netherlands and has European, British and American subsidiaries.

Yandex’s decision to transfer its media assets to VK comes amid criticism from the group over its role in censorship and propaganda along with Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Yandex’s “News” page thus filters publications containing the word “war”, which is banned by the Russian media regulator, which imposes the term “special military operation”.

In June, Yandex’s co-founder and CEO, Arkadi Voloj, resigned from the group’s management after being sanctioned separately by the European Union. However, to date, Yandex has not been targeted as an organization.

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Faced with the risk of sanctions, Yandex believes its interests are “best served by undertaking a strategic divestment from its media operations,” according to the press release.