The founder and former CEO of Russia’s largest internet company, Arkady Volozh, has slammed Vladimir Putin’s “barbaric” war in Ukraine, becoming one of the most prominent Russian businessmen to express criticism of what Russia still calls euphemistically its “special military operation.”
“I’ve been asked a lot of questions over the past year, and especially a lot of them came up this week. I would like to clarify my position,” he said in a statement released to the media.
“I am totally against Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, where I, like many, have friends and relatives. I am horrified by the fact that every day bombs fly into the homes of Ukrainians,” said Volozh, describing himself “as a “Kazakhstan-born, Israeli tech entrepreneur, computer scientist, investor, and philanthropist.”
“Despite the fact that I have not lived in Russia since 2014, I understand that I also have a share of responsibility for the actions of the country,” he added. “There were many reasons why I had to remain silent. You can argue about the timeliness of my statement, but not about its substance. I am against war.”
In June 2022, Volozh quit as CEO of Yandex
(YNDX), which also operates Russia’s most popular search engine, after he was sanctioned by the European Union over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“Volozh is a leading businessperson involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Ukraine,” the EU said. “Yandex is also responsible for promoting State media and narratives in its search results, and de-ranking and removing content critical of the Kremlin, such as content related to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”
In his statement, Volozh said after moving to Israel in 2014, he has been working on developing Yandex’s international projects. “But in February 2022, the world changed, and I realized that my story with Yandex was over.”
“After the outbreak of the war, I focused on supporting talented Russian engineers who decided to leave the country and start a new life. It turned out to be a difficult task that required a lot of effort, attention and caution,” he said.
“Now these people are outside of Russia and can start doing something new in the most advanced areas of technology. They will be of great benefit to the countries where they remain,” he added.
Volozh went on to say that when Yandex was created, “We believed that we were building a new Russia – an open, progressive, integrated into the global economy, known in the world not only for its raw materials.”
However, “over time, it became clear that Russia was in no hurry to become part of the global world. At the same time, the pressure on the company grew,” he said. “But we did not give up, we did our best despite the external conditions. Has it always been possible to find the right balance? Now, looking back, it is clear that something could have been done differently.”
On Thursday, the UK removed sanctions against another prominent Russian businessman – eccentric Russia-born tycoon Oleg Tinkov, the most outspoken billionaire to criticize Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Foreign Office said that Tinkov, 55, would no longer be subject to sanctions following an appeal during which he argued the UK had sanctioned him in error.
Whereas most Russian oligarchs have, at most, spoken out against the invasion only in guarded terms, Tinkov has denounced the “crazy war” in Ukraine and renounced his Russian citizenship last year in protest.
Last year, he said the Russian government forced him into a “fire sale” of his stake in leading fintech TCS over his anti-war statements.