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Russia Social Network Says Authorities Request Ukraine User Data

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April 17 (Bloomberg) -- VKontakte, Russia’s largest social network, said it declined a request by the country’s security agency to hand over data on Ukrainian users who supported the recent government change in Kiev.

The company declined to give data about the users to the Russian Federal Security Service, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, upon its request in December, VKontakte Chief Executive Officer Pavel Durov said on his VKontakte page last night.

“Our answer was flat denial, Russian jurisdiction doesn’t cover Ukrainian users of VKontakte,” Durov said on his page, where he also posted a picture of a dog dressed in a hoodie. “Disclosure of their personal data to Russian authorities would’ve breached the law and betrayed millions of Ukrainians who trusted us.”

Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula, which belonged to Ukraine since 1954, last month after a new government came to power in Kiev. Ukrainian protesters who backed the regime change in Kiev had registered groups on VKontakte, which has about 100 million users, mainly in Russia and former Soviet countries.

VKontakte, based in St. Petersburg, published on its website a request dated Dec. 13 from the security service asking Durov to disclose data for authors and administrators of 39 VKontakte groups backing a regime change in Ukraine.

An officer at the security service in St. Petersburg, who declined to be identified, declined to comment.

Durov also said he rejected a request by the Russian Prosecutor General’s office to close opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s anti-corruption group on VKontakte. “Neither me, nor my team would exercise political censorship,” Durov said. Existence of VKontakte is pointless without freedom of information, he said.

Durov sold his 12 percent stake in VKontakte this year as a holding in the company would’ve constrained the CEO’s ability to make “right decisions,” he said. Billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s Mail.ru Group Ltd. and investment firm United Capital Partners own VKontakte.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ilya Khrennikov in Moscow at ikhrennikov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net Ville Heiskanen, Robert Valpuesta

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