Pressure mounts to include Russian tech giant Yandex in EU sanctions list –

***This article has been updated with a comment from Yandex.***

A group of progressive MEPs are set to quiz the European Commission on why Russia’s biggest tech company has so far been excluded from the sanctions list, while the Baltic states plan to raise the issue at meetings. Council discussions.

Yandex is Russia’s second-largest search engine by market share and provides several online services, including advertising, mobility apps and browsing. The company also offers carpooling services in several EU countries.

These mobility services will be questioned by a group of Spanish MPs at the initiative of Inma Rodríguez-Piñero, according to a request for a written response seen by EURACTIV and which should be published soon.

European lawmakers point to the collaboration between the tech giant and the Russian regime, referring to a case documented by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) where opposition activist Ivan Golunov was arrested on absurd charges thanks to the data provided by the mobility application of Yandex.

“Yandex.Taxi complies with all laws in each country of operation. In some cases, Yandex.Taxi has to consider formal official requests from local law enforcement, requesting information,” a Yandex spokesperson told EURACTIV.

The same RUSI report notes that the massive amounts of data collected through ridesharing apps raise serious concerns “that authoritarian governments may demand access to the data to, for example, track specific citizens or groups in other country”.

Several EU governments have already revoked the license of the Russian mobility app. On Monday, March 7, the mobility colossus Uber announced the withdrawal of a partnership with Yandex in 2017.

Parliamentary questions ask the Commission whether the revocation of Yandex’s license should not take place at EU level and asks for an explanation for not including the tech giant in the list of Russian companies sanctioned following the invasion of Ukraine.

MEPs also call on the European Commission to work with African countries to report on Yandex’s use of data, given the Russian company’s growing presence in African markets.

“We do not comment on individuals/entities that may have been considered for designation. All decisions on the imposition of new sanctions are taken by consensus by member states in the Council, but nothing is ruled out,” said Peter Stano, EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and policy. security, at EURACTIV.

Voices supporting the Yandex sanction at the EU level may not be limited to the European Parliament. The Baltic states are also considering raising the issue in the framework of the European Council, an EU diplomatic source told EURACTIV, although the issue is not yet officially on the table.

On February 28, Tallinn City Council member Pärtel-Peeter Pere called on the Estonian government to ban Yandex’s taxi service and other economic activities.

EURACTIV understands that the request is likely to receive support from Poland, as the country has so far backed sweeping sanctions against Russian entities.

The mobility service is not the only one to worry the Russian company. On March 1, the former head of Yandex’s news division, Lev Gershenzon, posted a message on Facebook pointing to the company’s complicit role in spreading Kremlin propaganda about the Ukrainian war.

“The fact that a significant part of the Russian population can believe that there is no war is the basis and the driving force behind this war. Today, Yandex is a key element in hiding information about war. Every day and every hour of such “news” costs human lives,” reads the message translation provided by journalist Ilya Lozovsky.

The representative of Yandex pointed out that according to Russian law, any news aggregator with a daily audience of one million people is required to show only publishers registered in the official register of the Russian media regulator, known as Roskomnadzor.

“The algorithm determines what gets on the Yandex.News front page by prioritizing licensed media with the most citations, fastest news delivery speed, and highest audience engagement,” said the spokesperson.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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