Pavel Durov, often referred to as “Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg” since the social network he founded became bigger than Facebook in Russia, fled his home country in April in part because of the government’s increasing interference in his business.
Durov told The New York Times’ Danny Hakim that he first started thinking about leaving Russia in 2011 when a SWAT team showed up at his door with guns after he refused to shut down the profiles of opposition politicians. He didn’t answer the door, but they remained outside for over an hour.
“They seemed to want to break the door,” he says.
Two years later, Durov realised that allies of President Vladimir Putin had bought 48% of the company, despite the fact that he was supposed to have right of first refusal.
In total, allies of Putin controlled around 88% of the company, according to Quartz. After the government tried to force him to release the data of Ukrainian protest leaders (he resisted), Durov decided to sell the remaining stake of his own company in December. He wouldn’t give a concrete figure, but, at the time, it was estimated to be a few hundred million dollars.
Durov, an iconoclastic libertarian, told Hakim that he’s wary of the way Putin views the internet and how he has started cutting Russia off from the rest of the digital world.
“Since I’m obviously a believer in free markets,” Mr. Durov says. “It’s hard for me to understand the current direction of the country.”
Durov is now working on a secure messaging app called Telegram.