Yandex offices raided by Ukraine over treason allegations

James Pearce
Published on:

Ukrainian security services claim the Russian search engine has been leaking customer data to Russian agents

Russian IT and mobile company Yandex has seen its Ukrainian offices raided as part of an alleged treason accusation, according to reports.

Yandex, which provides the biggest search engine in Russia as well as other internet and technology services, including mobile software, saw its offices in Kiev and Odessa searched by the SBU, the Ukrainian security service, earlier in the week.

According to a statement released by the SBU, the official’s believe the company’s management has illegally collected, stored and passed personal data of Ukrainian citizens to agents of the Russian special services.

The SBU claims Russia plans to use this information, which included details such as occupation, way of life, places of visit, residences, telephone numbers and emails addresses, to conduct intelligence, subversive informational operations in the Ukraine.

The searches came just weeks after Ukrainian officials banned users from accessing Yandex and several other Russian sites.

"Law enforcement agents found that the management of the company illegally collected, accumulated, and passed on the personal data of Ukrainian citizens," the SBU said in a statement on its website.

"The information was transmitted to [Russian] security services for planning, organizing, and conducting reconnaissance, sabotage, and information-subversion operations in the country at the expense of Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability.”

Yandex, which launched a global partnership programme in October which saw telecoms operators and smartphone makers including the likes of includes Fly, LAVA, Mobile TeleSystems, Multilaser, Posh Mobile, Wileyfox and ZTE sign up, has denied all wrong doing.

In a statement, the Russian firm confirmed that it had been raided, and said that it is cooperating fully with the local authorities.

“Neither our employees in Ukraine nor management of Yandex. Ukraine have access to personal data of Yandex users. At Yandex, our users are central to everything we do and we have always fiercely protected our users' data privacy. We implement strong security measures across all of our services to ensure both the anonymity of users and the confidential transfer of sensitive data. All data is stored securely across Yandex data centres and the aforementioned investigation does not affect the security of user data.

“In each country in which we operate, Yandex complies with strict legal procedures for information requests by local authorities, which provides that any requests may be considered only upon a proper court decision. The allegations that our employees were transmitting personal data to Russian security forces have no merit.”

Yandex is one of more than 450 Russian firms that have been blacklisted by Kiev following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. It had around 320 staff operating in the country, and approximately 11 million users.