Russia tightens grip on media panorama as Yandex sells homepage, information to rival VK

(This content material was produced in Russia the place the legislation restricts protection of Russian navy operations in Ukraine)

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s main web agency Yandex on Tuesday stated it had agreed to promote its information aggregator and homepage to state-controlled rival VK, a dramatic transfer that may doubtless additional restrict Russia’s entry to unbiased media.

The all-share deal, during which Yandex will purchase 100% of meals supply service Supply Membership, marks a big shift in Russia’s web panorama, with Yandex successfully passing the reins that steer the distribution of on-line content material to a Kremlin-friendly actor.

Moscow’s years-long suppression of unbiased media sharply intensified after Russia despatched tens of 1000’s of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, passing a legislation banning what it calls “false data” about Russia’s armed forces and quashing many organisations’ capability to broadcast freely.

“The board and administration of Yandex have concluded that the pursuits of the corporate’s stakeholders…are finest served by pursuing the strategic exit from its media companies and shifting to a concentrate on different applied sciences and companies,” Yandex stated in an announcement.

Nasdaq-listed Yandex, sometimes called “Russia’s Google”, has complied lately with Moscow’s calls for and the specter of fines over which publications’ tales can function on its information aggregator, drawing criticism over its impact on media freedom.

Yandex restricts entry to websites, lots of that are unbiased media, which have been banned by communications regulator Roskomnadzor, and in February began warning Russian customers in search of details about occasions in Ukraine of unreliable data on-line.

A former head of Yandex Information, Lev Gershenzon, on March 1 described Yandex as a key factor in hiding details about the battle in Ukraine. Yandex has denied being express in censorship.

“We’re shopping for our freedom,” a supply near Yandex stated. “This enterprise had been such a weight on our toes.

“It will allow us to do our enterprise considerably depoliticised, virtually utterly depoliticised.”

(Reporting by Reuters, modifying by Ed Osmond)