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Durov gets a new passport and is looking for a new home

0 28 April 2014

Pavel Durov, the founder and long-time general director of leading Russian social network VK.com has become a citizen of Caribbean island nation St Kitts and Nevis. 

Last week VK's creator was finally ousted from his position after months of conflict with UCP, a fund which owns 48% of the firm. He immediately announced his intention to quit Russia, telling TechCrunch that 

“I’m out of Russia and have no plans to go back. Unfortunately, the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment.”

He added that his involvement with VK was also over, saying that

“I’m afraid there is no going back, not after I publicly refused to cooperate with the authorities. They can’t stand me.”

It was this difficult relationship with the authorities that led Durov first to sell his 12% stake in the network and then to hand in a resignation notice in late March (which he then retracted). In mid-April he made public a letter sent to him in December 2013 by the FSB (Russia’s CIA) demanding access to personal data about the organisers of the EuroMaidan protest. In a VK post, he said 

“our response was and remains an outright refusal - Russian jurisdiction does not extend to Ukrainian users of VK.”

This was not Durov’s first run-in with the FSB. In December 2011 he made public the FSB’s request to shut down seven groups involved in organising the fair elections protests, and also posted his response - a photo of a dog in a hoody accompanied by a flat refusal to comply. 

Durov gained St Kitt and Nevis citizenship via a scheme designed to boost the tiny island's sugar industry. According to the “citizenship via investment” initiative, anyone who invests $250,000 in the industry can become a citizen, giving them visa-free entry to 131 countries, including the EU. 

However, we still don’t know where Durov is planning to live. Last Thursday he took to Facebook to request advice on where to locate a new permanent base for his team of engineers

“As you probably know, I am out of Russia. Me and my team of 12 engineers have a temporary HQ in Central Europe, and we are now looking for a permanent base to work from. We are choosing a new home, a country that will allow us to develop our projects with privacy and freedom of speech in mind.

Our team includes 6 ACM champions and 6 winners of other programming contests. These guys made it possible for Telegram Messenger to gather 40 million registered users worldwide just within 8 months after its launch. Several members of this team, including my brother, were crucial in making VKontakte what it is today — the only social network that defeated Facebook in an open local market. We are now going to build our next project, a mobile social network.

What country or city do you think would suit us best? Please feel free to comment below. To give you an idea of our preferences, we dislike bureaucracy, police states, big governments, wars, socialism and excessive regulation. We like freedoms, strong judicial systems, small governments, free markets, neutrality and civil rights.

P.S. If you happen to represent a government that meets our criteria, you are welcome to share ideas with me at durov2016@gmail.com.”

Any ideas? 

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