KIEV, May 29 - Ukraine's SBU security service on Monday accused Russian search engine Yandex of illegally collecting personal information on Ukrainians and sending the sensitive data to Russian spy agencies.
The allegations were made shortly after SBU raided two Ukrainian offices of Yandex - in Kiev and in Odessa – to recover computer equipment as potential evidence.
The personal information collected included names, occupation, whereabouts, home address, personal phone numbers, email, job, life style, sources and level of income, according to SBU.
“This information was later transmitted to Russian special services for planning, organizing and conducting reconnaissance and acts of sabotage that undermined the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Ukraine, SBU said in a statement.
The people whose personal information was illegally collected among others included military servicemen, security agents, government officials, SBU said.
A Yandex spokeswoman on Monday confirmed the raids on the company’s offices, but declined to specify the reason.
“We have no information on the reason for today’s actions,” the spokeswoman said. “Yandex is ready to provide all information on its operation in Ukraine.”
Yandex, a Moscow-based NASDAQ-traded company with capitalization of about $9 billion, posted $14.5 million in net profit in the first quarter of the year.
The developments come less than two weeks after President Petro Poroshenko has ordered the blocking of access to Russia's most popular social media websites and search engines as part of sanctions approved for the annexation of Crimea.
Russia is known to have used computer hacking as part of its ‘hybrid warfare’ against Ukraine, including the use of infected smart phone applications allowing Russian military to target and kill Ukrainian artillery units during active fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk in August 2014.
Russian security agencies are also believed to have been widely using Russian-based social networks for intelligence gathering, as well as for spreading fake news as part of efforts to sway political mood in the country.
A decree by Poroshenko expanded sanctions to include 468 companies and 1,228 people, including Russian social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, the email service Mail.ru and Yandex. (nr/ez)