No Plans to Nationalize Yandex, Russian Lawmaker Says after Controversial Draft Law

Russia does not aim to nationalize its biggest internet company, Yandex, a lawmaker behind a draft law proposing to limit foreign ownership in ‘significant’ Russian technology firms has said, according to Reuters.

Anton Gorelkin, a member of the ruling United Russia party, proposed a draft law limiting foreign ownership in internet firms to 20% if they are considered by a special commission to be a “significant source of information”.

The draft, prepared by Gorelkin, raised concerns it would damage the ability of Russian companies to compete globally. It has attracted criticism from several sides, including from the companies themselves.

“I believe that Yandex should not be state-owned, but it should be Russian,” Gorelkin said. “Not only Yandex, but all the companies that are systemically important for our IT market.”

The proposal concerns only the companies for which the Russian market is core, which means, if approved, it would not affect Facebook or Google, Gorelkin said.

“Facebook has about 20 million users in Russia, and Yandex has about 100 million,” the lawmaker said. “We are talking about companies focused on Russia – this would concern neither Google, nor Facebook.”

The draft law may impact three to five key players in the Russian IT sector, he said, without naming them.

Along with Yandex, Russian internet group Mail.Ru, which owns social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, warned against adopting the law in its form as of late July.

Critics say Russian authorities have over recent years taken steps to tighten control of the internet, threatening to stifle individual and corporate freedom. But the Kremlin says it is trying to protect the integrity of the internet’s Russian-language segment.

Yandex, with over 30 offices globally, has been listed on the U.S. tech exchange Nasdaq since 2011. Its services include food delivery and a ride-sharing business with Uber in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan, among others.