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VKontakte Founder Sues Former Partners for Extortion in Battle Over Messaging App

Published: June 3, 2014 (Issue # 1813)



  • Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, has accused his former partners of extortion.
    Photo: VK.com

St. Petersburg-born Pavel Durov, the 29-year-old founder of Russia's most popular social network, VKontakte, is suing his former business partners and the Moscow-based investment fund United Capital Partners, or UCP, for what he sees as an illegal attempt to seize control of one of his companies, instant messaging application Telegram.

In a lawsuit filed with a U.S. District court in New York on April 30, Durov accused his former partners Ilya Perekopsky and Axel Neff as well as UCP partners Ilya Scherbovich, Victoria Lazareva and Yury Kachuro of resorting to extortion in an attempt to gain control of Telegram, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Telegram was founded in 2011, shortly after Durov had a run-in with the Federal Security Service, or FSB. As street protests flared up following parliamentary elections in December 2011, the FSB demanded access to user data and messages on Durov's VKontakte — a Facebook-like social network that has a much larger user base in Russia than its U.S. rival, and through which many of the protests were organized. Durov refused the request and said that he came under increasing pressure from the FSB to hand over information. As the pressure mounted, Durov sold his share of VKontakte, resigned as its chief and in April fled the country.

Telegram is analogous to the popular messaging application WhatsApp, but with increased security measures to prevent messages from being intercepted and read by spooks around the world. Durov said in his court statements that he chose to keep the details of his project secret and distribute its assets among several of his companies in several different legal jurisdictions to protect it, Vedomosti reported.

According to Durov, his former partners and UCP attempted to take control of Telegram by leveraging their stakes in several of Durov's companies that own shares in the project — Digital Fortress LLC and Pictograph LLC. Vedomosti said he has asked the court to ensure reimbursement damages and recognize him as the rightful owner of Telegram's assets.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of today’s seminar is “Grammar Practice.”


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at “Professional Growth,” a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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