News from Vossiusstraat 16: why there are no public events anymore, comment on Volozh's statement against the war

Nieuws, gepost door: nn op 02/10/2023 10:01:15

Wanneer: 02/10/2023 - 09:29

Soon Vossiusstraat 16 will have existed for one year!
During the last few months, many changes happened. We won the court case and its appeal and this stability allowed us to make this house our home. While the doors of Vossiusstraat 16 were initially open, there have not been any public events in the past few months. This statement is here to explain why that is.
We will also comment on a statement issued by the owner of Vossiusstraat 16, Russian oligarch Arkady Volozh, where he claims he is against the war.


Why we don't organize public events anymore
When the Vossisstraat 16 squat opened, we decided that it would be both a place to house ourselves and new people and a social space where anyone who wants can come and organise. Many discussions, benefit evenings, meetings, workshops, and more initiatives took place at Vossiusstraat over the span of several months. We really appreciate the fact that so many people were able to use the building and that Vossiusstraat 16 could be a place for political organising and for people to meet.
However, for the past few months, there have not been any public events organised at Vossiusstraat 16. This is a decision we took in response to the verdict of the appeals court.

The court hearing took place in April and we received the verdict a month later. While it stated that we could stay in the house, it also explicitly listed all the events we had organised and stated that the house could not be used as a public social center anymore. The justification behind it is that the usage of the house as a social space does not correspond to the "zoning plan". The zoning plan is established by the municipality and determines what a building can be used for. In the case of Vossisstraat 16, the zoning plan states that the building has to be used exclusively for housing. In addition, complaints by our posh neighbours could result in the municipality starting a court case against us for "overlast" (noise disturbance).

After this verdict, we discussed the future of Vossiusstraat 16 and decided that we were going to prioritise housing over having a social space. This was a difficult decision to take as it changed the political vision we had of this space, as well as what it represented for people. This decision was also taken considering the squatting movement in Amsterdam and the difficult housing situation. We decided that we did not want to risk facing eviction because of our open social space. We all want to continue to organise events, so we will now do so in our friends' squats.


About Volozh's statement on the war
A month ago Arkady Volozh issued a statement where he declared: "Russia's invasion of Ukraine is barbaric, and I am categorically against it." He then acknowledges having a "share of responsibility for the country's actions".
In order to get some understanding of this statement's implications, a bit of context is necessary.

In 1997, Volozh co-founded the Russian search engine Yandex. Later on, as the CEO of Yandex, he developed several other services and apps such as Yandex Mail, Yandex Maps, Yandex Taxi, etc.

The problem with Yandex lies in its well-documented collaboration with the Kremlin and the Russian secret services. In 2011, a report by the BBC showed that Yandex passed on information to the FSB about people who donated money to an anti-corruption website created by Navalny. More recently, in 2020, Yandex released its first transparency report which revealed that, in the first half of 2020, the Russian government had sent Yandex a total of 15000 user data access requests, from which 84% were fulfilled. The services most affected by these requests were: Yandex.Passport - the service managing all the basic information of Yandex users (name, bank card, login history, and devices etc.)-, Yandex.Mail - which shared users' private conversations with the Kremlin - and Yandex.Taxi, which gave the Russian government access to trip histories and driver information.

In 2022, as a response to the war in Ukraine, the European Union established a list of 'sanctioned individuals'. Arkady Volozh was placed on this list for Yandex's promotion of State narratives and the removal of content related to Russia's involvement in the war from Yandex's search results. The sanctions targeting Volozh prevent him from entering any EU country as well as accessing or earning any money in the EU. The day after the sanctions list was published, Volozh renounced his position as CEO of Yandex. However, this does not mean that he has lost all influence over Yandex. Volozh is working on moving certain Yandex services outside of the company, such as drone delivery and cloud technologies. This way he can develop them independently from Yandex and market them at the international level. To explain the entire history of collaboration between Yandex and the Russian government would take too long, and demands expertise about the Russian political and economical life that we unfortunately do not have. But if you want to know more about that, you can read this news article that we found interesting:

In short, Volozh wants to continue to develop his projects and earn more money. The EU sanctions against him threaten all his political and economic ambitions as it prevents him from doing business in the EU. Stating that he is against the war a few months before a re-evaluation of his case by the EU administration is part of his attempt to clean his image in order to get delisted as a sanctioned oligarch. It appears his attempt has failed, according to an article from the Moscow Times that claims his name will remain on the EU sanction list for at least another six months.

Another news article that highlights the blatant hypocrisy of Volozh's statement is this opinion piece published in the opposition media outlet the Moscow Times: This article mentions how Volozh's personal website describes him as a Kazakh-born Israeli. Since 2014, Volozh is indeed married to an Israeli woman and lives in Tel Aviv. However, this angle of self-presentation is misleading given that Volozh lived in Russia most of his life, developed his entire buisness in Russia and has cultivated personal relationships with Russian politicians, including Vladimir Putin.

We are not surprised by Volozh's affection for the Israeli state, as it is known that Israel commonly grants second passports to Russian billionaires. It is, however, no less shameful that, in order to clean his image, Volozh associates himself with an arpatheid regime that is guilty of repeated war crimes and human rights violations. We should all regret that it is possible for anyone to gain more legitimacy in the eyes of the Western world by becoming an Israeli citizen.

All this is to simply point out that Volozh's critical statement on the war in Ukraine is only aimed at increasing his chances of getting off the sanctions list so he can continue his buisness and get back his house on Vossiusstraat 16.


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