Russian VK appoints son of Kremlin Insider as new CEO

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Russia’s leading social media platform VKontakte has named the son of an influential Kremlin insider as new chief executive, the company announcement Monday.

Vladimir Kiriyenko – whose father Sergei Kiriyenko is the first deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration – will become the CEO of the VK group, which controls VKontakte and a number of other Internet companies, “with immediate effect”.

This decision follows a controversy to resume of VK by companies affiliated with state-owned gas giant Gazprom, which commentators said was a sign the Kremlin is tightening its grip on the important social media network.

VKontakte, often referred to as “Russia’s Facebook”, is Russia’s most popular social media platform, with nearly 100 million monthly users.

Vladimir Kiriyenko was previously vice president of Rostelecom, a state-run telecommunications company. Her father, Sergei Kiriyenko, is one of the most influential figures in Russian politics – a former prime minister who now has extensive authority and control over the country’s domestic politics. He has been under EU and UK sanctions since 2020 for the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny last year, and supervised referendum on last year’s constitutional reform, which provided the legal basis for President Vladimir Putin to potentially stay in power until 2036.

“I am delighted to join VK as CEO,” Vladimir Kiriyenko said in a statement on Monday.

“The company will continue to open new markets and test new products as we focus on expanding our reach and user engagement. The company has a powerful platform to continue to grow, and realizing its full potential as a business, as an employer and as a public enterprise is a challenge that I look forward to.

His appointment was unanimously approved by VK’s board of directors and he will take office immediately, VK said on Monday.

VK shares have fallen since the new ownership structure took hold and fell further on Monday with the announcement of Kiriyenko’s appointment. The stock price fell 5% in Moscow exchanges to bring the combined losses over the past two weeks to 30%, or $ 1.4 billion in market cap lost.

Even before last week’s takeover, the social network was seen as close to the Russian government, and critics accused the company of easily sharing user data with Russian security services. It was founded by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, who sold it in 2014, citing FSB pressure.

The deal follows years when the Kremlin gradually sought to increase its control over the Russian internet, which had remained a relatively open space even as mainstream media fell under the control of the state or oligarchs considered close. of Putin.


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