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Russian FSB demanded Ukraine protest group details: VKontakte founder

18 april 2014, 09:59
©Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin
©Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

The founder of Russia's biggest social network VKontakte (VK) said Russia's security services demanded to know the identities of people running group pages of Ukrainian pro-EU protest last year, AFP reports.

The Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia's most powerful security agency, sent a letter to VK CEO Pavel Durov on December 13, "demanding that we give out personal data of Euromaidan group moderators," Durov wrote on his VK page.

Euromaidan was a loose structure of protesters who gathered last year on Kiev's Independence Square (known as the Maidan) to demand that the country is put on the path to European integration.

That protest eventually spiralled into violent clashes with police resulting in about 100 deaths and regime change which infuriated Moscow and led to its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last month.

Durov published a scan of a letter he received from the FSB, in which an agent from the Saint-Petersburg office demands to know "registration data of the authors and administrators" of 25 VK pages.

The pages have Ukrainian names and are all associated with the Euromaidan movement that began in Kiev in November, after former president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.

Some of the pages are for local Euromaidan groups in various cities, including Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine and even Lviv in western Ukraine.

"Giving out personal data of Ukrainians to Russian authorities would be not only a violation of the law, but betrayal of millions of residents of Ukraine who trusted us," wrote Durov.

He also claimed that his refusal to grant the FSB information led to him losing his stake in the company last year.

Durov announced in January that he had sold his 12 percent stake in the company, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, effectively giving control of the company to the empire of billionaire Alisher Usmanov, which now controls 52 percent.

The remaining 48 percent is controlled by investment group United Capital Partners, which Durov has accused before of being tied to the security services and gaining the stake through a hostile takeover.

The 29-year-old is often compared with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and is known for his libertarian views and pulling eccentric stunts. Earlier this month he announced his resignation as chief executive only to retract it later as an April Fool's joke.

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