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Google to file for bankruptcy in Russia

by AARON GREGG THE WASHINGTON POST | May 19, 2022 at 1:41 a.m.

Google's Moscow-based subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy, a company spokesperson said Wednesday, because Russia's seizure of its assets has rendered basic business operations -- including paying its staff --"untenable."

The tech giant submitted a notice of intention to declare itself bankrupt, according to Reuters, which cited a filing in Russia's federal register.

"The Russian authorities' seizure of Google Russia's bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations," the Google spokesperson said in a statement.

The company had already paused most of its commercial operations in Russia. But it will continue to offer such free services as Gmail, YouTube and Search because "people in Russia rely on our services to access quality information."

Google's bankruptcy filing is the latest development in a tumultuous back-and-forth between the Silicon Valley tech giant and Moscow.

Russia has long relied on censorship and propaganda to shape public opinion, tactics that have drawn Western tech companies into a complicated struggle.

At the same time, the Kremlin has sought to prevent Western tech companies from leaving the country. Authorities have ordered Google and 12 other tech companies to keep employees in Russia through a directive that some executives refer to as the "hostage law," according to reports from The Post, the New York Times and others.

Google -- whose search algorithms, document-sharing products and YouTube platform underpin much of the globe's free flow of information -- has gotten sideways with Russian authorities in the past.

Last September, it was ordered by a Moscow court to remove search results related to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. That same month, armed Russian police entered Google's Moscow office when the company resisted removing a smartphone application that was being used to muster support for opposition candidates, The Washington Post reported on March 12. It eventually did remove the app.

Tensions reached a new phase after Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February.

Google and several of its peers moved to limit the Kremlin's global propaganda networks shortly after the Feb. 24 invasion. In early March, the tech giant announced it would halt all search, YouTube and display ads in Russia after authorities asked it to block ads related to Ukraine. It also removed RT and Sputnik from its search results in the European Union in response to a government regulation there, according to the company's announcement.

On March 1, the company said it had removed hundreds of YouTube channels and thousands of videos for violating its community guidelines, including a number that were engaged in "coordinated deceptive practices."

In late April, a Moscow court ordered the seizure of 500 million rubles in Google's possession, worth about $7 million at the time, in a lawsuit stemming from restrictions the U.S. tech firm had placed on the YouTube channel of a prominent television firm, according to Reuters.

Print Headline: Google to file for bankruptcy in Russia

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