Russia tightens its grip on the media landscape as Yandex sells its homepage and news to rival VK


(This content was produced in Russia where law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine)

MOSCOW – Russia’s leading internet company Yandex said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell its news aggregator and homepage to state-controlled rival VK, a dramatic move that will likely further limit the access of Russians to independent media.

The equity deal, in which Yandex will acquire 100% of food delivery service Delivery Club, marks a significant shift in the Russian internet landscape, with Yandex effectively handing over the reins that lead online content distribution to a Kremlin-friendly player. .

Moscow’s years-long crackdown on independent media intensified sharply after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24, passing a law banning what it calls “false news about the Russian Armed Forces and nullifying the ability of many organizations to broadcast freely.

“Yandex’s board and management have concluded that the interests of the company’s stakeholders…are best served by continuing to strategically exit its media business and focus on other technologies and services” , Yandex said in a statement.

Nasdaq-listed Yandex, often referred to as “Russia’s Google”, has in recent years complied with Moscow’s demands and the threat of fines on which articles from the publications can appear on its news aggregator, drawing criticism as to its effect on media freedom.

Yandex is restricting access to sites, many of them independent media, which have been banned by communications regulator Roskomnadzor, and in February began warning Russian users seeking information about events in Ukraine of unreliable information in line.

A former Yandex News official, Lev Gershenzon, on March 1 described Yandex as a key player in covering up information about the conflict in Ukraine. Yandex denied being complicit in censorship.

“We are buying our freedom,” said a source close to Yandex. “This business had been such a weight on our feet.

“It will allow us to do our business in a significantly depoliticized, almost completely depoliticized way.”

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