EU lifts sanctions on Arkady Volozh, co-founder of Russia’s Google alternative

The European Union has removed the restrictive measures that it had placed on Arkady Volozh, a Russian tech billionaire and co-founder of Russian internet giant Yandex. A vocal critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, living in Israel since 2014, he will now be able to visit and work in Europe.

After the review of the European sanctions list, 97 individuals and nine entities were amended. Additionally, nine deceased and three other persons were deleted, according to the new regulation.

Volozh is no longer among the 1535 sanctioned individuals in Europe.

Volozh was added to the sanction list on June 3rd, 2022, due to his involvement in Yandex, which is the largest tech company in Russia, operating the country’s most popular search engine. Volozh was the founder and the CEO of Yandex, which had Russian State-owned banks among shareholders and investors.

“In 2019, Yandex agreed to a restructuring that gave a “golden share” to a newly formed Public Interest Foundation built to “defend the Russian Federation interests.” Through the Public Interest Foundation, the Government of the Russian Federation is able to have a veto over a defined list of issues, such as the sale of material IP and the sale or transfer of Russian users’ personal data to foreign companies, both of which are deemed to affect Russia’s “national interest.” Yandex is also responsible for promoting State media and narratives in its search results, and deranking and removing content critical of the Kremlin, such as content related to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine,” the previous regulation stated.

However, EU countries have agreed to lift sanctions on Volozh after he quit as CEO of Yandex in June 2022, and Yandex’s owners struck a 475-billion-rouble ($5.21 billion) deal to sell the company to a group of Russian investors, consisting of Russia-based PJSC Lukoil Oil, senior management team members, and other entrepreneurs, Reuters reported.

Volozh, describing himself as a Kazakhstan-born, Israeli tech entrepreneur, computer scientist, investor, and philanthropist, has slammed Vladimir Putin’s “barbaric” invasion of Ukraine and is one of the most prominent Russian businessmen to express criticism of Moscow.

Volozh co-founded NASDAQ-listed Yandex N.V., one of the largest internet companies in Europe. He served as Yandex N.V. CEO and Board member for 25 years before stepping down in June 2022.