EU lifts sanctions against Russian billionaire: he plans to build Yandex 2.0 in Europe

Oleksandr LytvynNews
Volozh asked the EU to lift sanctions against him
Volozh asked the EU to lift sanctions against him

Arkady Volozh, a billionaire co-founder of Russia's largest company Yandex, has been removed from the EU sanctions list. He hasn't lived in Russia since 2014 and has condemned Russian aggression, which allowed him to be spared sanctions.

A European Council spokesperson confirmed to WIRED that the Yandex co-founder was among the three people whose sanctions were lifted this week. Volozh, 60, was originally placed on the EU sanctions list in June 2023 following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

"As the founder and CEO of Yandex, he supports the government of the Russian Federation financially," the EU decision said. In response, Voloz resigned as CEO of Yandex, calling the sanctions "wrong."

Volozh condemned Russia's actions only in the summer of 2023. That's when he filed an application to have the sanctions lifted. "I am categorically opposed to Russia's barbaric invasion of Ukraine, where I, like many others, have friends and relatives. I am horrified that bombs are dropped on the homes of Ukrainians every day," Volozh was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Then a source close to Volozh, in turn, drew attention to the fact that "there are hundreds of other Russian businessmen who have been sanctioned and are closely watching what Brussels is doing."

The lifting of sanctions against one of the most prominent figures in the Russian tech sector will be especially important if Volozh continues to build Yandex 2.0 inside Europe. The billionaire maintains strong ties to exiled Russian tech talent: thousands of Yandex employees fled the country after the war broke out. "These people are now gone and can start something new while continuing to promote technological innovation," Volozh said in the same statement from 2023. The holding company has already announced plans to relaunch Yandex in Europe.

As previously reported, the European Union has agreed on the 13th package of sanctions against the terrorist country Russia. The sanctions package includes about 200 companies and individuals, but does not include new sectoral measures. Ukraine's representative to the EU called the 13th package "modest" and called for more significant restrictions in the 14th package.

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