- Apple has been cutting ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
- The iPhone app store still hosts dozens of apps from Yandex, the country’s biggest internet firm.
- A senior Yandex executive was recently sanctioned by the EU over his close ties to Vladimir Putin.
Apple has stopped selling iPhones in Russia and limited the use of its
service in the country as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Apple’s moves to cut ties with Russia do not appear to extended to its App Store, where Yandex, Russia’s largest internet company, continues to offer dozens of apps to Apple users throughout the world.
There are currently 45 iPhone apps for Yandex on the Apple App Store in the United States, as well as extra apps for the Apple Watch and iMessage, according to a review by Insider on Monday. The apps range from Yandex’s search engine to a Yandex web browser and a messaging app.
Yandex has faced accusations of censorship and of having close ties to the Russian state. Since the invasion of Ukraine, several US companies have cut ties with Yandex, including food delivery service GrubHub, which announced this month that it would end a partnership using driverless robots to deliver food on college campuses in the US. Web browser maker Mozilla removed Yandex as a default search provider last week, citing the “prevalence of state sponsored content.”
An Apple spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry as to whether it would be taking action against Yandex.
Reached for comment, Yandex spokesperson Polina Pestova said that “the company works in full compliance with local and international laws. We have a very strict process of identifying the legitimacy of any government request. We only consider those that have been lodged by an authorized entity in accordance with the laws and due process and only provide the amount of information that is strictly required in order to fulfill the request. Any requests that fail to comply with all relevant procedural and legal requirements are turned down. Also, like any search engine, Yandex Search is obliged by law to automatically exclude any illegal resources from search results.”
Yandex’s former head of news, Lev Gershenzon, has accused the company of censoring news about the invasion, telling Protocol in an interview that “tens of millions of Russian citizens don’t know that the war is taking place … And the reason? The media field is censored, drastically, and Yandex.ru is, if I’m not mistaken, the most popular media portal with the largest audience in Russia.”
On Tuesday, Yandex deputy CEO and executive director Tigran Oganesovich resigned after he was added to a list of figures sanctioned by the European Union because of his close relationship with Vladimir Putin. Some MEPs are pushing for the European Commission to sanction the company directly, according to Euractiv. “It might be that Yandex transfers data on its users to Russia’s special services, and it is certain now that Yandex is linked to the Russian state,” said Aliaksandr Herasimenka, a director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute wrote in an email.
“We were shocked and surprised to learn that Tigran was designated under EU sanctions, and we are extremely sorry to see him step down from his Executive Director and Deputy CEO roles,” Yandex said in a statement about Oganesovich’s resignation.
Yandex is the biggest tech company in Russia, with a Google-esque range of products from a search engine to messaging apps, a web browser, and ride-hail services. Yandex spokesperson Pestova said: “Our apps are constantly monitored and assessed by Apple and Google for compliance with strict App Store and Play Store moderation policies, which prohibit any wrongful collection or transfer of data.
On March 1, Apple halted all sales of its devices in Russia, and limited use of Apple Pay, its payments service —causing chaos on Moscow’s subway system that relies on it for payments.
“We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence,” Apple said at the time.