Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine is pushing out one of Russia's biggest tech giants
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Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for the welcoming ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia, November 23, 2022. Contributor/Getty Images
Yandex, Russia's biggest tech giant, plans to sever ties with Russia, according to the NYT.
Yandex's parent company is concerned about the impact of the war in Ukraine on its business.
The exit could deal a blow to President Putin as he focuses his efforts on domestic technologies and goods.
Russia is on the brink of losing its largest tech company, which would derail President Putin's plans to promote Russian-grown alternatives to Western technology.
Yandex, often referred to as Russia's Google, is the country's largest internet company, best known for its search browser and ride-hailing apps. However, the Netherlands-based parent company wants out of Russia because of the potential negative impact the Ukrainian invasion could have on its business, according to a New York Times report. The exit of Russia's biggest tech giant would deal a blow to President Vladimir Putin, who has made a concerted effort to produce Russian technology and goods as sanctions limit access to Western suppliers.
As part of a larger restructuring plan first reported by Russian media outlet The Bell, Yandex's parent company (dubbed Yandex N.V.) would move its new businesses and most promising technologies — including self-driving cars, machine learning and cloud computing services — outside of Russia , the Times reported, citing two anonymous sources familiar with the matter. These companies would need access to Western markets, experts and technology, none of which is profitable while the Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on and Western sanctions remain in place.
However, the decision to relocate Yandex' fledgling technology business may not lie with the parent company. The firm must obtain Kremlin approval to transfer technology licenses registered in Russia outside the country, The Times reported. Also, Yandex shareholders would have to approve the broader restructuring plan.
Russia's tech sector is hit hard in the Ukrainian war
Yandex's business, once hailed as a rare success story for Russian companies, has struggled since the invasion of Ukraine. The history of the tech giant is not unlike that of Silicon Valley. Yandex employed more than 18,000 people, was worth more than $31 billion, and is often referred to as the "Google of Russia." It even once had offices in downtown Palo Alto, California.
But since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Yandex employees have left Russia, and the company's New York-listed shares lost more than $20 billion in value almost immediately after the war, before Nasdaq halted trading in its shares . Meanwhile, Moscow-listed shares of Yandex have fallen 62% over the past year.
The Yandex disaster mirrors other Russian tech companies struggling in the face of Western sanctions and the exodus of tens of thousands of Russian IT workers, according to a report by Al Jazeera. Even Putin cannot deny this, admitting that Russia's IT sector will face "enormous" difficulties as the US and 37 other countries limit Russia's access to technologies such as semiconductors and telecommunications equipment through export controls.
Untangling Russia's dependence on the world economy was an uphill struggle for the country even before the Ukrainian invasion and sanctions.
In 2015, the Kremlin tried to block all government agencies from using foreign software, but as of 2019, only 10% of government-used software was made in Russia. Russia is not only dependent on foreign technology either. More than half, or 65%, of Russian companies relied on imports for their manufacturing, according to a 2021 statement from the Central Bank of Russia. From cars to office paper, most companies involve foreign suppliers somewhere in the supply chain.
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