NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will begin work at a large Russian website next month, according to reports in the Russian press.
“He will provide support for a large Russian site,” Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena reportedly told Ria Novosti, refusing to name the site “for security reasons.” A separate report in the Moscow News says Kucherena claimed Snowden would help maintain “Russia’s largest site.”
Given these descriptions, the speculation in the Russian tech world is that Snowden has been offered a job at one of Russia’s three Web giants — Yandex, a search giant with a popular home page (somewhat like Yahoo), Mail.Ru, one of the country’s largest communications platforms, and VK or VKontakte, a Facebook-like social network.
One seems more likely than the others. According to Russian tech site Digit.Ru, Yandex and Mail.ru representatives have categorically denied that they employ Snowden. On the other hand, VK’s representatives are being a little coy:
“I can not comment on this information,” the spokesman “VKontakte” George Lobushkin told Digit.ru. “The first I have heard of it. If so, I have not yet reported,” the technical director of VKontakte, Nikolay Durov, said.
Its 28-year-old founder, Pavel Durov, has been called “Russia’s Mark Zuckerburg,” and he’s certainly something of a character. The Globe and Mail
points towards his all-black wardrobe, love of the Matrix movies, and refusal to drink and smoke. There’s also a distinctly political element to Durov’s personality — he describes himself as a
libertarian on his ownVK page and has
published “anarcho-capitalist” manifestos for Russia. Last year he had perhaps his first taste of international fame when he threw
5,000-rouble ($160) notes out of his window.
In August, Durov wrote a post asking Snowden to join VK. “We invite Edward to St. Petersburg and will be happy if he decides to take a position with the stellar team of programmers at VKontakte,” Durov wrote. “In the end, there is no more popular European Internet company than VK. I think Edward might be interested in the protection of personal data for millions of our people.”
So, in some ways, a Snowden job at VK might make sense.
In other ways, it seems like a strange choice. Durov’s leadership of VK has recently been fraught with difficulties, and he’s clashed many times with the Russian government — there were theories earlier this year that Durov was being targeted by the Kremlin through criminal courts in a bid for a Putin-backed businessman to gain control of the social network. If Snowden really is taking a real job with VK, it raises a lot of questions about his life in Russia.
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