Google’s Russian subsidiary has filed for bankruptcy over its failure to pay a $100 million fine for maintaining content that Moscow deems illegal, according to media reports reported Wednesday as Russia continues to ramp up its pressure on Big Tech following its invasion of Ukraine.
A Moscow court a fine Google 7.2 billion rubles ($113.5 million) in December 2021 for failing to remove content banned in Russia. Google, which tried but did not appeal the decision, missed a March 19 deadline to pay the fine.
Google submitted a notice of intent to declare insolvency to Russia’s official registry Fedresurs “because since March 22, 2022, it foresees its inability to meet its monetary obligations,” state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
It was not immediately clear what the move would mean for Russians’ access to Google’s popular search engine or its other services such as YouTube. A senior cabinet minister pointed out this week that unlike Facebook and Instagram, which have been declared “extremist”, Russia is not considering blocking YouTube.
Last month, Alphabet Inc’s Google halted advertising in Russia to comply with unprecedented Western sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
YouTube also blocked Russian state-run media outlets that championed the war. Russia retaliated with fines but did not ban the website.
Even before invading Ukraine, Russia had stepped up pressure on US-based tech giants for what it calls interference in its domestic politics and a range of other offences.