Russian-born Pavel Durov, the founder and CEO of the messaging platform Telegram and founder of Russian social media site VK, has reiterated his commitment to Ukrainian users’ privacy in a message. Durov wrote on his Telegram channel about how he was forced to leave VK and Russia after not complying with a Russian intelligence agency and that anyone questioning the app’s commitment to privacy was wrong.
Earlier, Signal co-founder Moxie Marlinspike had posted on Twitter that it was surprising that users in Ukraine were still relying on Telegram and had raised concerns around its privacy.
Durov has once again tried to dispel myths about his Russian connection by speaking about his mother’s Ukrainian ancestry and recounting the story of his exit from VK.
“Nine years ago I was the CEO of VK, which was the largest social network in Russia and Ukraine. In 2013, the Russian security agency, FSB, demanded that I provide them the private data of the Ukrainian users of VK who were protesting against a pro-Russian President. I refused to comply with these demands, because it would have meant a betrayal of our Ukrainian users. After that, I was fired from the company I founded and was forced to leave Russia. I lost my company and my home, but would do it again – without hesitation. I smile with pride when I read my VK post from April 2014, which shows the scanned orders from the FSB and my trademark response to them – a dog in a hoodie,” he wrote.
VK is a social media platform that is available around the world but is most popular among Russians. According to Similarweb, it is the 17th most popular website in the world and the fourth-most in Russia. It is also the most popular social media site in the country. FSB or the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation is a Russian intelligence and security agency that is considered the spiritual successor to the Soviet KGB.
In April 2018, a Russian court had banned Telegram after the company refused to hand over encryption keys to the Kremlin which claimed that the service was being used by extremists to communicate. The ban was reversed in 2021, but Telegram was fined a total of 15 million rubles ($208,000 then) the same year, for not taking down calls for protest on the platform.
Durov signed off his message with some impassioned rhetoric reiterating his commitment to Telegram users, “Many years have passed since then. Many things changed: I no longer live in Russia, no longer have any companies or employees there. But one thing remains the same – I stand for our users no matter what. Their right to privacy is sacred. Now – more than ever.”