The months of friction between Google and Russia have reached a peak.
Google’s Russian subsidiary has announced its intention to file for bankruptcy after the country’s authorities seized its bank account, Reuters reported yesterday (18 May).
A Google spokesperson told Reuters that the account seizure has made it “untenable” for the Russian office to pay employees, suppliers or vendors, or meet other “financial obligations”.
“Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy,” the spokesperson said.
The tech giant has been facing pressure from Russia for months for failing to delete content the country’s authorities deems illegal under current legislation. Last December, Google was slammed with a fine of 7.2bn roubles (roughly $98m) for this reason.
However, the most recent tension has risen from Google’s decision to restrict Russian state media access on YouTube.
In March, YouTube blocked channels of Russian state-funded media organisations such as RT and Sputnik, and Google suspended monetisation features for YouTube users in Russia.
The tech giant’s news service was then banned by the Russian communications regulator for what it called “unreliable” information on the conflict.
According to Reuters, a Russian TV channel owned by a sanctioned Russian businessman said in April that bailiffs seized 1bn roubles (roughly $15m) from Google since it did not restore access to its YouTube account.
That fine did not seem to deter Google-owned YouTube as it blocked Duma TV, a channel that shares broadcasts from Russia’s lower house of parliament, later that month.
It is unclear whether it was the most recent seizure that caused Google to file for bankruptcy, as Russia’s Federal Bailiffs Service listed two seizures since mid-March.
While Google intends to close its Russian office, the tech giant told Reuters that its free services such as Gmail, Maps, Android and Play would remain available.
Earlier this week, Russia’s minister for digital development Maksut Shadaev said YouTube would not be blocked, as the move would likely cause Russian users to suffer.
At the start of March, Google was one of many global tech players that took measures against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The tech giant stopped selling online advertising in Russia, which applied to ads on Search, YouTube and outside publishing partners.
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