Russia tightens grip on media as ‘Russian Google’ sells homepage, news to rival

Russia’s leading internet firm Yandex, known as the ‘Russian Google’ on Tuesday said it had agreed to sell its news aggregator and homepage to rival VK,  a move likely to further restrict access to independent media in Russia.

Online content

Under the deal, Yandex will effectively hand over control over distribution of online content to a state-controlled firm, Euractiv reported.

VK already runs Russia’s largest social network, VKontakte, the Russian version of Facebook. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,  Moscow blocked access to some foreign platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

Russia’s  ongoing clampdown of independent media intensified sharply after it sent its troops into Ukraine in February when it passed a law banning what it calls “false information” about the armed forces,  preventing medias outlets from broadcasting freely.

Strategic exit

Yandex  said it board and management had “concluded that the interests of the company’s stakeholders…are best served by pursuing the strategic exit from its media businesses and shifting to a focus on other technologies and services.”

Often referred to as “Russia’s Google”, Yandex has complied with Moscow’s demands under threat of fines over which publications’ stories can feature on its news aggregator, drawing criticism over the impact on media freedom.

Moscow has not blocked access to most foreign-language media, which remain freely available in Russia and on Yandex, but search results do restrict access to any sites that communications regulator Roskomnadzor has banned, many of which are Russian-language independent media.


In February, Yandex started warning Russian users seeking information about events in Ukraine of unreliable information online.

A former head of Yandex News, Lev Gershenzon, on 1 March described Yandex as a key element in hiding information about the conflict in Ukraine. Yandex has denied being complicit in censorship.

Yandex dominates Russia’s online search market with a share of around 62%, according to its own analytics tool Yandex Radar. Google accounts for about 36%, with VK’s at less than 1%.

Yandex, complete with News and Zen, will be renamed, Yandex said, with VK to take over development and control over “content, look and feel”.

The deal, signed on Monday, requires anti-monopoly approval.

Inside Russia. brings you coverage from the Russian media


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