Google’s Russian subsidiary is filing for bankruptcy after the country’s authorities seized its bank accounts, preventing it from continuing operations or paying staff and vendors.
A spokesperson from Google confirmed that free services, including Google Search and YouTube, would remain available in Russia. Reuters reported that while Russian authorities have for months been pressuring Google’s local unit to restrict access to content deemed illegal or undesirable by the Kremlin – and it has complied with some content removal orders - thus far Russia’s government has not blocked access to Google.
A statement from the unit read: “The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia's bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations. Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy.”
Russia's Federal Bailiffs Service database lists two seizures of Google assets since mid-March, although the amounts are not disclosed. Other penalties and fees have also been issued. Google has not confirmed if these asset seizures were the factor that prompted its bankruptcy filing, but the firm stated that it had moved most of its employees out of Russia since the country’s invasion of Ukraine on 24th February.
Google has largely shut down ad sales and commercial operations in Russia, but has confirmed that Gmail, Maps, Android and Play are among the free services that will remain available. The Russian government has claimed that it will not block YouTube in the interests of Russian citizens, although it has issued repeated threats and penalties to the service for failing to censor content.