Russian Vkontakte under government's spotlight
The Russian version of Facebook, Vkontakte (VK), was launched in 2006 and since then it has been under pressure from Vladimir Putin's government. Now, this force against the social network is increasing and even VK's CEO Pavel Durov has left the country.
In mid-April, Durov was investigated by Russian police. They carried out searches on the home and offices of the 28-year-old founder, who was allegedly involved in an incident in which a traffic policeman was injured by a driver who ignored an order to stop.
Despite Durov denied any involvement , Russian authorities confiscated several servers and the CEO decided to leave the country without any sign of whether he will return.
VK is more popular in Russia than Facebook, with 200 million users, something that seems not to make the Russian government happy, as it provides a platform for free debate.
In addition, the social site aims to expand its presence in the market by investing in the German social network StudiVZ, but this could hit “Kremlin's opinion-making monopoly,” according to Spiegel Online.
Durov is not making things easier to keep VK “safe.” Back in 2012, he claimed on Twitter that Stalin's victory in World War II enabled him to continue repressing the Soviet people, a comment that angered Russians.
First actions against Durov took place in 2011, when after the parliamentary elections, supporters of the opposition used VK to organise protests. Consequently, the internal intelligence service ordered the closing of opposition discussion forums even without a court order.
It's clear that Durov hasvery few allies, but according to Russian Vice Premier Vladislav Surkov, VK will continue operating despite it's founder's problems.
“Vkontakte has been slammed for many things. But the fact is that it has a very talented team, and it is very popular in Russia,” Sukrov said.
In addition to all these issues, Durov risks losing control of VK. He owns just 12% of company's shares, while 40% is held by Alisher Usmanov, Russia's richest man. United Capital Partners, a fund known for doing deals for state-run energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft, owns the 48% left.
It is not clear whether Durov will lose VK, but doubtless his team of developers will go with him. "We must be ready to lose everything,” the CEO said.