August 15, 2023

"I Am Horrified"


"I Am Horrified"
Vladimir Putin and Arkady Volozh in the Moscow office of Yandex, 2017. Russian Presidential Press and Information Office, Wikimedia Commons.

Arkady Volozh, the founder and former CEO of renowned Russian tech company Yandex, recently issued a statement condemning Russia’s War on Ukraine. In it, the businessman acknowledged his own share of responsibility for the unfolding events and decried the incursion into Ukraine as a "barbaric invasion."

"I am horrified that bombs are being dropped on Ukrainian homes every day," Volozh said.

The businessman reminisced about his initial vision for Yandex, which was rooted in an aspirational, open, and progressive Russia. However, as time passed, he came to realize that his vision of a globally engaged country was not materializing.

Volozh has been living in Israel since 2014 and was involved in international Yandex projects. Since the start of the war, the entrepreneur found himself subjected to European sanctions, stepped down from all his positions at Yandex, was engaged in disagreements with Yandex’s leadership regarding the war, and saw his family trust teeter on the brink of exchanging a controlling stake in the company for the prospect of advancing select international projects.

According to The Bell, there were internal deliberations within Yandex about whether Volozh should publicly voice his concerns about the war. On the one hand, such a statement could potentially mitigate the risk of sanctions, but on the other, it could lead to nationalization of the company and retribution against its leadership.

The publication of Volozh’s anti-war statement followed a controversy surrounding his personal website, where he was presented as an "Israeli businessman born in Kazakhstan." Russia was only mentioned in relation to his first business endeavor, CompTek, a software distribution company he founded in the late 1980s. Another noteworthy development was an article by the independent Russian media Meduza, revealing that the FSB might soon gain access to data regarding the global movements of Yandex Taxi service customers, spanning countries like Finland, Israel, Armenia, and Georgia.

Volozh has become the second major Russian businessperson, after Oleg Tinkov, to unequivocally condemn Russia’s invasion. All other "players" have been far more cautious about voicing their opinions on the war. In particular, Alisher Usmanov said that he feels close to all the victims of the war in Ukraine and hopes for diplomacy; Mikhail Fridman stated that war cannot be a solution; and Oleg Deripaska, who is involved in recruiting Russian soldiers, said that it is necessary to start negotiations between the countries as soon as possible.

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