Yandex Pulls Employees Out of Minsk After Office Raid

Some of the company’s Minsk-based staff were moved to Russia last week, and others who could not leave Belarus were relocated to country homes away from the capital, Russian news outlet The Bell reported Tuesday, citing two sources familiar with the situation.

Armed men in masks raided the offices of Yandex and ride hailing app Uber on Aug. 13, identifying themselves as members of Belarus’ security services. Nobody was detained, nothing was taken from the offices and no reason was given for the search, Yandex’s press service said at the time.

Sources told The Bell that the raid – which came just a few days after the disputed presidential election that has triggered the largest protests inside Belarus since the end of the Soviet Union – was an attempt to obtain data about passenger trips taken with Yandex Taxi.

Russian internet giant Yandex has pulled some of its employees out of its local office in Minsk after the Belarusian security services raided its premises amid the ongoing unrest in the country.

Around 300 Yandex employees work in the company’s Minsk headquarters, most of whom have been working remotely since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The relocations to Moscow and the Belarusian countryside affect only a “minority” of the company’s employees, The Bell reported.

It comes amid increasing uncertainty among the leaders of Belarus’ technology sector. Following the elections more than 300 tech CEOs signed an open letter threatening to leave the country if violence against protestors continued. Temporary internet blackouts – often at times of protests – were also widely reported in the first days of the protests.

Young Russians’ Extremism Sentences Reduced for ‘Plot to Overthrow Putin’

A Moscow court has reduced by three months the prison sentences of two activists jailed last year for plotting to overthrow President Vladimir Putin, news outlets reported Tuesday.

Three young activists received real jail terms and four others were handed suspended sentences in August 2020 on accusations of plotting an uprising as part of an anarchist chat group called “New Greatness.” Their supporters said Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) fabricated the high-profile case through infiltration and a prominent rights group declared them political prisoners.

On Tuesday, the legal news website OVD-Info reported that Moscow City Court reduced Ruslan Kostylenkov’s seven-year sentence to six years and nine months and Pyotr Karamzin’s sentence of six and a half years to six years and three months.

The third jailed activist, Vyacheslav Kryukov, will serve out the entirety of his six-year sentence, as will the four others who received suspended sentences ranging between four and six and a half years.

Their defense team said it will continue to appeal the remaining sentences, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Critics of President Vladimir Putin accuse the authorities of opening politically motivated cases on serious charges of treason and terror in recent years.

“We need to step up our efforts when it comes to combating extremism and crime,” Putin said in a congratulatory note to Russian prosecutors on their professional holiday Tuesday.

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