MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Google has confirmed that it plans to close its engineering office in Russia.
Although no official reason was given, the planned relocation comes ahead of a new Russian law set to go into effect in the new year that requires the storage of information on Russian citizens at data centers in Russia. Any internet companies found in violation of the personal data rules would be subject to a penalty. Relations between Russia and the U.S. have also soured over the crisis in Ukraine and related sanctions.
Moscow "has ratcheted up online repression dramatically in the past half year," observed Andrew McLaughlin, a former policy director at Google who worked on censorship issues.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt expressed concern in 2013 that Russia was moving in the direction of China's active internet censorship.
Despite the Russian government's attempts at increased internet control, Google has indicated the relocation of the engineering office is only a partial retreat, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
"We are deeply committed to our Russian users and customers," Google said in a statement concerning the closure, reiterating that "we have a dedicated team in Russia working to support them."
Google will retain a staff in Russia focused on sales, business partnerships, user support, marketing and communications.