A Russian tech giant primarily owned by western investors is supporting sites pushing wrong promises about the war in Ukraine to make countless numbers of bucks each day by digital marketing.

Yandex is considered Russia’s equivalent to Google, jogging each a search motor and an intensive electronic marketing business. Its deputy CEO, Tigran Khudaverdyan, resigned this thirty day period soon after the European Union imposed sanctions on him.

The Bureau for Investigative Journalism has discovered Yandex-sent adverts appearing along with misinformation and propaganda created by far more than fifty percent a dozen Russian-language news websites. These attracted far more than 420m visits in February, according to SimilarWeb, suggesting these web sites could be producing tens of millions of dollars yearly from electronic advertisements.

Adverts ran together with untrue tales about US bioweapons labs in Ukraine, claims that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy is displaying indicators of drug use, and studies parroting Russian claims that the “special operation” is likely solely to system. Many others depth intended provocations by Ukraine aimed at Russia’s allies, or refer to the Russian invasion as an “operation to denazify and demilitarise Ukraine”.

Any ad revenue would be channelled by means of a enterprise owned by some of the world’s greatest expense companies, most of which are dependent in the US.

“A massive portion of on the net disinformation and on line propaganda is that it is really successful monetarily,” stated Jane Lytvynenko, a investigate fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard who specialises in analysing misinformation. “And so reducing off that profits stream, I assume, is really essential.”

Some of the internet sites documented by the Bureau have immediate backlinks to the Russian state. The Bureau found Yandex serving adverts on the web-site of the state information agency RIA, and two offshoots of the point out-owned Sputnik.

One particular of the largest sites, with more than 177m visits in February, was Lenta.Ru. Lenta is element of Rambler, a media group that was bought in 2020 by Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, which is condition-owned and beneath US and United kingdom sanctions. The Bureau confirmed that Lenta.Ru was working with Yandex’s movie advertising up till at the very least 10 March.

Although Yandex is headquartered in Moscow, it is stated on the New York inventory current market Nasdaq under a company registered in the Netherlands. Assessment by the Bureau displays that the extensive the greater part of its shares are owned by traders based mostly in the west, in specific the US. Amongst them are some of the world’s largest expense companies, asset supervisors and banking companies.

As of 16 March, Yandex’s premier one shareholder was Capital Team, an asset management fund with trillions of dollars less than administration, which owns a 13% stake in the company. The 2nd and fourth most significant shareholders had been also substantial asset administration firms: Invesco and Fidelity.

Money Team mentioned it experienced a longstanding policy not to remark on its holdings, but included: “Our hearts are with the Ukrainian people today and all all those harmed by this war.”

Fidelity stated it experienced resolved not to order Russian securities in light of modern functions, and would take into account reducing its latest Russian holdings. Invesco has also been approached for comment.

“Investors need to have to also consider as a result of how their cash is currently being made use of, wherever that cash is being invested, and how they can contribute to isolating Russia and Russian corporations,” explained Lytvynenko. “Especially as they unfold propaganda globally.”

Amid the prime 10 shareholders, only two are not major western expense firms: a household trust in the name of the Yandex founder Arkady Volozh, and a former executive at Yandex. A lot more than 50 percent are primarily based in the US. The company’s share structure usually means that Volozh’s have faith in controls, when mixed with a small quantity of shares held by other directors and workforce, extra than 50% of the voting electric power, but only about 11% of the dividend-paying out shares.

Yandex’s share price has pretty much halved considering that the invasion of Ukraine. Grubhub ended a partnership with the company to create food shipping and delivery robots, although Uber introduced it was accelerating pre-current designs to lower ties. The company alone has not experienced sanctions imposed by the United kingdom, regardless of calls from some MPs.

Yandex’s stance is in contrast to numerous overseas web firms, which have taken action versus makes an attempt to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Very last week, for occasion, Google introduced it would bar any web site that “exploits, dismisses, or condones” the war from utilizing its advertising and marketing equipment to get paid earnings. Several hours afterwards, the Russian world-wide-web censor Roskomnadzor blocked Google Information, accusing it of sharing “unreliable, publicly sizeable information” about the “special navy operation”.

Yandex and Lenta.Ru have been approached for comment.