Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia's most popular social network, is complaining that he has been thrown out of his company on a technicality and claims that the firm has been taken over by pro-Putin oligarchs.
Durov, who set up the social network VK (also known as VKontakte – ВКонтакте) in 2006, handed in his resignation last month but then said he withdrew the letter. The company disagreed and he has now been deposed and has reportedly fled the country.
"I'm out of Russia and have no plans to go back," he told TechCrunch. "Unfortunately, the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment. I'm afraid there is no going back,” he said of VK.com, "not after I publicly refused to cooperate with the authorities. They can't stand me."
In a statement on his VK page, Durov said that he had received no word from the board or shareholders of his removal, and only learned of the decision via a press report. The site is now under the direct control of Igor Sechin and Alisher Usmanov, he said.
Usmanov, whose personal fortune of over $20bn makes him Russia's richest man – that we know of – now controls a majority stakeholding in VK. Igor Sechin is a former deputy Prime Minister of Russia, now head of a Russian oil company, and is a close Putin ally.
Durov has had his troubles with the Russian authorities for some years. He resisted censorship request from the government and reportedly ran into trouble by refusing to hand over account details for protestors against the government in Russia and the Ukraine.
The 29-year-old, who is often compared to his older counterpart Mark Zuckerberg, set up VK in 2006 and built it into the largest social network in Russia. He aroused the ire of some media companies in the West by refusing to ban pirated music on the site, and wasn't above making an ass of himself on the home front either.
In 2012 he caused a mini riot outside VK's offices after he folded 5,000 rouble notes (worth around $140) into paper airplanes and threw them out of the window of his office. Durov reportedly filmed the scrum and was seen laughing at the brawl that developed.
Durov said he will now spend time – and his estimated $260m fortune – developing a secure messaging service called Telegram, and possibly also a social network based around mobile phones. ®