Russia Seizes Google’s Bank Accounts

The Russian subsidiary of Google on Wednesday said it planned to file for bankruptcy after authorities held its bank account, thus making it difficult for the company to pay salaries to staff and vendors.

A Google spokesperson said free services including search and YouTube would be functioning as normal, in spite of the bankruptcy move.

The Russian unit has been under pressure for months for not deleting content that Russian authorities deem illegal and for restricting access to some Russian media on YouTube, but the Kremlin had till now only stopped access to the company’s services.

“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,” the Google spokesperson said.

This is the first time that the search giant has admitted to its bank account as a whole being seized.

Google did not immediately confirm whether it was the seizure of specific major funds or whether other seizures had occurred.

The database of Russia’s Federal Bailiffs Service mentions two seizures since mid-March, without specifying the amounts, as well as other fines and enforcement fees.

The service confirmed that it had seized all of Google’s assets and property.

Google had moved many of its employees out of Russia since Moscow begain its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. But some have stayed back.

According to reports, a note posted on Wednesday on Russia’s official registry said that the Russian subsidiary was planning to declare bankruptcy and since March 22 had predicted an “inability to fulfill its monetary obligations,” including severance pay, remuneration for current and former staff, and timely mandatory payments.

The U.S. search giant, which has paused ad sales and most other commercial operations in Russia, said its free services, including Gmail, Maps, Android, and Play, will remain available for Russian users.

The Russian government had earlier said that it was not planning to block YouTube, amid repeated threats and fines, saying that such a move would likely see Russian users suffer and therefore, should not be undertaken.

In 2021, the Russian subsidiary’s revenue was 134.3 billion roubles, Interfax news agency’s Spark database of Russian companies have shown.

Google said in April that Russia accounted for 1 per cent of its revenue last year, or about $2.6 billion.

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