Warnings issued about Yandex, the Russian tech giant.

Because of concerns about its ties with the Kremlin, the government was urged to limit the UK’s operation of Russia’s largest technology company.

Yandex is Russia’s equivalent of Google. It has its headquarters in Moscow, but it operates in more 17 countries. Yandex recently launched Yango Deli, which offers 15-minute delivery to homes in London.

Since 2017, sanctions have been placed on the parent company, which provides map, search, taxi, and shopping services in Ukraine.

The Yandex taxi app was pulled from Google and Apple stores by the Lithuanian government last Monday, Reuters reported.

Uber also stated last week that it wanted to accelerate the sale of its stakes in , a joint venture with Yandex. The company is legaly based in the Netherlands, but its main offices are in Russia.

Arkady Volozh founded the tech giant. He is one of Russia’s most wealthy businessmen. Yango Deli was launched in London in October and continues to operate as normal.

One of many ultra-fast delivery options to arrive in the capital recently, the grocery app sells 2,500 products, including Hovis bread and Ben & Jerry’s icecream. They also run seasonal promotions such as a Christmas tree delivery in 15 minutes and Valentine’s Day red roses in just 15 minutes.

It is ambitious to grow: it is running ads on Apple Store and eventually wants to achieve “nationwide coverage”, Evgeny Chernikov (UK manager), stated in December. Yango Deli, which announced via Instagram on 21 February that it would be expanding to three new areas in London, just days before Putin invaded Ukraine, made the announcement.

Analysts and MPs have voiced concern about Yandex’s presence in the UK and asked Downing Street for an end to Yandex’s UK operations. Although its value has plummeted since the invasion, it still had a market capitalisation of $27bn (PS20bn) last year.

Many Russian companies have been subject to sanctions in the UK, including Aeroflot (Russia’s national airline); Rostec, Russia’s largest defense company; and Gazprom, the giant gas producer. However, technology companies like Yandex have not received much attention.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesperson, compared the company to China’s Huawei. This was due to national security concerns and the Liberal Democrats said that the UK operation should be examined immediately.

She told the Observer that the government is currently stating that any company supporting the Putin regime in any way is on the sanctions list. “If this is true, then this company could be on the sanctions list.”

She added that “The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office should be considering this company as part its suite of sanctions.”

Yandex, despite being listed in the USA and officially registered in the Netherlands, is considered to have strong connections with Russia.

It agreed to a corporate restructuring in 2019, which gave a veto on key decisions, such as those concerning personal data security, to a government-linked entity whose goal it was to “defend our country’s interests”, Guardian reported.

This technology company was also accused of blocking the flow of information on the conflict in Ukraine to Russians. Russian law states that Yandex News results can only include publications listed on the register of the national media watchdog. This restricts news from the outside.

Yandex’s ex-head of news Lev Gershenzon accused Yandex of being a key element in hiding information from Russians regarding the war. He urged those who worked there to quit.

Security experts also have concerns over the company’s ability to collect large amounts of personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and browsing history. This is according to the privacy policies that customers agree to when signing up.

Yango Deli UK customers are informed that they have given their “express, unambiguous consent” to allow the data to be sent to Russia. Data protection in Russia is weaker.

Analysts believe that Putin could use data in the future to weaponize it, possibly for disinformation campaigns and targeting individuals on UK soil.

It was reported in 2020 that Yandex had evicted employees from its Minsk office, Belarus, a key ally of Russia, after the Belarusian security forces raided the premises amid ongoing unrest. According to the Moscow Times, sources claimed that the raid was intended to collect passenger trip data from Yandex Taxi.

At Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, Sergey Sanovich said Yandex was “innovative” with “talented people who were staunchly anti-war”, but that, like all Russian companies, it was ultimately at Putin’s mercy. He said that Yandex’s problem is that Russia’s security service could demand access to any server in Russia.

Keir Giles is a senior Russia Fellow at Chatham House. He urged the government in Britain to evaluate the threat from Russian tech companies.

It can be used against anyone. We don’t want to provide all our personal information to a Moscow server, when Russia considers the UK an enemy.

Yandex did not comment on the calls for sanctions, but Yango Deli UK stated that they remain “dedicated” to providing fast and high-quality grocery delivery to Londoners.

The company stated that UK customers’ information is processed in accordance with applicable regulations and EU-approved standards. It also added that privacy was of the “utmost importance”.

A spokesperson said that they were praying for peace and wishing it would be “restored as soon as possible”.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stated that they will not speculate about future designations.