In a rare move, Arkady Volozh, founder and former CEO of Russia’s premier internet company, has publicly censured Vladimir Putin's military campaign in Ukraine, describing it as "barbaric." This makes Volozh one of the most prominent Russian business figures to challenge Moscow's depiction of the conflict as a “special military operation”.
"I am against war."
In a candid statement, Volozh expressed his revulsion at the ongoing invasion. “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,” he said.
His unique background as a “Kazakhstan-born, Israeli tech entrepreneur, computer scientist, investor, and philanthropist” further underscored the personal resonance this conflict holds for him. While he hasn't resided in Russia since 2014, Volozh conceded that he bears a portion of responsibility for Russia's actions by virtue of his heritage. “There were many reasons why I had to remain silent,” he remarked, leaving it to readers to contemplate the underlying pressures that may have curtailed his earlier criticisms.
Yandex's Controversial Ties
Volozh's relationship with Russia had come under international scrutiny the previous year. In June 2022, he stepped down as the CEO of Yandex (YNDX), renowned as Russia's predominant search engine, after facing sanctions from the European Union in relation to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The EU’s stern rebuke shed light on the perceived culpability of Volozh and Yandex. They criticized him as a “leading businessperson involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation”.
The EU further accused Yandex of bolstering state narratives and suppressing Kremlin-critical content, especially those condemning Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. Volozh’s public denunciation of the war represents a significant shift in the narrative, offering a glimpse into the potential internal divides within Russia's elite circles.
As the conflict continues, the world watches intently, hoping that influential voices like Volozh's can usher in a wave of introspection and change.
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