EU lifts sanctions from Yandex founder

EU lifts sanctions from Yandex founder
Arkady Volozh had publicly condemned Russia’s “barbaric war” full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews March 13, 2024

The EU has lifted sanctions on Arkady Volozh, the founder of Russian internet giant Yandex, according to the latest entries to the official EU journal.

Volozh was sanctioned in June 2022, and immediately resigned from all positions in Yandex. 

As followed by bne IntelliNews, the lawyers of Volozh had reportedly formally requested for the EU sanctions on him to be lifted back in August 2023.  Their arguments are understood to have gained more traction after Volozh publicly condemned Russia’s “barbaric war” full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. However, this did not yield any results and sanctions on Volozh remained in place when they were reviewed on September 15.

Since then, Netherlands-based Yandex NV (YNV), which holds all the non-Russian assets, announced its exit from the Russian market on February 5, selling its Russian operations to a consortium led by the local management team for RUB475bn ($5.2bn). This made it the largest corporate exit from the country since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Sources told Reuters previously that “legal arguments in court against Volozh were easing given the proposed full divestment” of his stake in the Russian business of Yandex Russia, which is now a separate entity. Yandex NV, the international part of the business, will soon be rebranded, sources close to the company told bne IntelliNews.

Volozh's inclusion in the sanctions lists was explained by the fact that Yandex's shareholders and investors are state banks Sberbbank and VTB, while the company itself is responsible for promoting Russian state media and silencing content critical of the Kremlin, including content related to Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine.

According to the latest update to the EU sanctions list, together with Arkady Volozh, the following individuals had the sanctions lifted:

  •     Sergei Mndoyants, former vice-president of AFK Sistema multi-industry investment conglomerate;
  •     Slovakian citizen Josef Humblek, who heads the European branch of the Night Wolves pro-Kremlin motorcycle club;
  •     PMC Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin (died in August 2023);
  •     State Duma deputy Nikolai Bortsov (died in April 2023);
  •     State Duma deputy Victor Zubarev (died in May 2023);
  •     Deputy Minister of Defence Gennady Zhidko (died in August 2023).

Notably, the former head of infamous private military company "Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash in August 2023 shortly after a failed mutiny, remains under EU sanctions.

In July the UK government lifted its sanctions on exiled Russian banker Oleg Tinkov, who published a sharp foul-mouthed critique of the "insane war" in Ukraine on his social media, but then was forced to sell his TCS banking group to Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin. Some of these lifting decisions, such as lifting the EU sanctions from Kremlin-linked media mogul Grigory Berezkin, have been seen as questionable. 

In 2022 some 20 Russian billionaires threatened to contest sanctions imposed on them by the EU following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This includes the family members of metals and tech tycoon Alisher Usmanov, industrialist and former EuroChem director Andrey Melnichenko .Dmitry Konov, the former CEO of petrochemicals manufacturer Sibur, is also appealing against the sanctions against him