The owner of Yandex, often called “the Google of Russia”, has said it will withdraw from its home country.
Its Netherlands-based parent company sold the Russian operation for 475 billion rubles ($5.2 billion; £4.2 billion), far less than its estimated market value.
The sale to a consortium of investors means that Yandex’s Russian business is now a wholly Russian-owned entity.
The company has previously been accused of hiding information about the war in Ukraine from the Russian public.
Moscow has welcomed the latest deal which the company said was “the product of an extensive period of planning and negotiation over more than 18 months.”
“This is exactly what we wanted to achieve a few years ago, when Yandex was under threat of being taken over by Western IT giants,” said Anton Gorelkin, deputy head of the Russian parliament’s information policy committee.
“Yandex is more than a company, it is an asset of the entire Russian society,” he added.
Created during the dotcom boom in the late 1990s, Yandex developed its own search engine, maps and advertising business. Other services include taxis and food delivery.
The $5.2 billion deal is believed to be significantly lower than the market value of Yandex, which was worth around $30 billion in 2021.
Despite its nickname “Russia’s Google,” Yandex has no ties to the American search engine giant or its parent company Alphabet.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many foreign-owned companies have left the country, often selling assets on unfavorable terms.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also ordered the seizure of others, such as assets belonging to Western brands Danone and Carlsberg.
Yandex co-founder Arkady Volozh is one of the few businessmen with ties to Russia who has spoken out publicly against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He left the firm in 2022.
Volozh has received sanctions from the European Union, which in 2022 said that Yandex is “responsible for promoting (Russian) state media and narratives in its search results, and for declassifying and removing content critical of the Kremlin, such as content related to Russia”. war of aggression against Ukraine”.
He is seeking to have the sanctions removed by a European Union court as he says he was never close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
To meet the Russian government’s demands for its content, Yandex sold some of its online resources to its state-controlled rival VK in late 2022.
Although Yandex presents itself as independent from the authorities, BBC Monitoring experiments in 2022 showed that its search results did not report on Russian atrocities in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.