Russia increases media influence as VK buys Yandex business

Russia increases media influence as VK buys Yandex business

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s leading internet group Yandex said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell its news aggregator and homepage to rival VK, a deal that could further limit Russians’ access to independent media.

The deal marks a significant shift in Russia’s internet landscape, as Yandex effectively hands over control of the distribution of online content to a state-controlled company.

VK already operates Russia’s largest social network, VKontakte, while Moscow has blocked access to some foreign platforms, including those of Meta Platforms.

Russia’s years-long crackdown on independent media sharpened after troops were sent to Ukraine with the passage of a law banning so-called “fake news” about the armed forces, restricting the free dissemination of information.

Nasdaq-listed Yandex, often dubbed the “Russian Google,” has in recent years bowed to Moscow’s demands under threat of fines and has faced criticism over the impact on media freedom.

Moscow has not blocked access to most foreign-language media, which remain freely accessible in Russia and on Yandex, but the search results restrict access to all sites banned by communications regulator Roskomnadzor, including many Russian-language independent media outlets.

A former Yandex News employee, Lev Gershenzon, described Yandex in March as a key player in concealing information about the conflict in Ukraine. Yandex denied having been involved in the censorship.

According to its own analysis tool Yandex Radar, Yandex dominates the Russian online search market with a share of around 62%. Google accounts for about 36% and of VK less than 1%.

(Reporting Reuters; French version Elitsa Gadeva, edited by Kate Entringer)


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