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As calls to leave Russia continue, some American technology firms have decided to stay

As calls to leave Russia continue, some American technology firms have decided to stay

Faced with pressure to sever all ties with Russia – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made another call this week – some US companies continue to hire IT staff in the region, even though others have ceased operations.

“It is necessary to leave the Russian market,” Zelensky said. speaking at the summit of the CEO of The Wall Street Journal in London by video link on Tuesday. “The aggressor needs to be isolated. Complete, complete economic isolation. This will allow Ukraine to fight for our rights. “

Hundreds of Western companies have since invaded Ukraine in February suspended or ceased operations altogether from the country, citing concerns about the conflict, concerns about the safety of its employees and the difficulty of doing business there due to increased Western sanctions. Last month the World Bank forecast a decline of 11.2%. in Russia’s gross domestic product this year.

At the meeting of the Director General of WSJ, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that companies that maintain ties with the Russian economy, directly support the “military machine” of this country, and urged them to leave, citing business risks in this country.

However, some companies support Russian operations, including Paxful, a peer-to-peer bitcoin market in Wilmington, Del., And Mapbox, a digital card startup based in San Francisco. Both companies say they wanted to fulfill their obligations to Russian employees. In Russia, Paxful employs about 70 people, including full-time employees and contractors, while Mapbox employs about a dozen full-time employees.

“We have a moral duty. We can’t leave our team in Russia, ”said Dmitry Moiseev, Paxful’s chief information security officer in Estonia.

Dmitry Moiseev, Chief Information Security Officer Paxful


Photo by Jake Farra

Russia is an attractive place to hire IT staff due to the high quality of its engineers and the low cost of talent, Mr Moiseev said. This is one of the reasons why Paxful decided to host one of the four IT centers there, the rest are in Estonia, the US and the Philippines. But almost half of Paxful’s IT staff is in a Russian hub, where mostly engineers and developers work, he said.

Paxful also continues to hire in the region, which, according to Elena Nedvetskaya, the vice president for human affairs, who is in St. Petersburg, has become easier since the start of the war.

If there are rumors that the company may leave the country, “then employees are more available for discussion,” she said. Ms. Nedvetskaya confirmed that in these circumstances Paxful hired engineers.

Paxful officials had no further comment this week following Mr Zelensky’s address.

Robert Farish, Vice President, International Data Corp. and regional head of market director for the former Soviet Union, said the IT labor market in Russia has shifted in favor of supply. According to him, the number of responses to vacancy announcements in IT has increased since the beginning of the war. According to data he saw on Russia’s largest online recruitment platform, the average number of applicants applying for each IT vacancy in March rose to 3 from 1.3 in February, Mr Farish said.

Tom Lee, head of policy for Mapbox, said that after the start of the war, the company abandoned plans to establish a more official presence in Russia. But she decided to keep a dozen people working there.

“We stick to our commitment to our team,” he said. “The people we worked with, whom we had long considered colleagues to whom we made commitments – it would be wrong to sacrifice them for some symbolic purpose,” he said. , adding: “Obviously, the main priority here is law enforcement.”

Tom Lee, head of Mapbox policy, at a Senate committee hearing in Washington in 2019.


Al Draga / Bloomberg News

Mr Lee, who was interviewed last week, declined to comment further after Mr Zelensky’s statements this week.

Jeff Lawson, CEO of Cloud Communications

Twilio Inc.,

said in March that he had struggled with similar issues at the start of the war. Although Twilio does not hire anyone in Russia, he said he was deeply considering suspending the company’s services in the region.

Ultimately, he decided to disconnect government customers and stop building new relationships with customers other than nonprofits and NGOs, he said, leaving services to existing private customers.

Twillio-supported nonprofits and NGOs include some services to Ukrainian refugees, the company said.

Mr Lawson acknowledged that there were various reasons why the companies had left the country, but said he did not want to be pressured after the outcome. He also said that Russians still have access to communication services, which is “pure positive”.

Asked about Mr Zelensky’s statements, the company said it could not comment further until it was published.

Write Isabel Busquette on Isabelle.Bousquette@wsj.com

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