Russian President Vladimir Putin heads the Security Council meeting in Moscow. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Yuri Milner, a Russian venture capitalist, made investments in Facebook and Twitter while they were still private with the help of funds linked to Russia's government, according to documents obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and several news outlets.
- Facebook: Gazprom Investholding, a subsidiary of the Kremlin-controlled natural gas company, provided funds to an offshore investment company, which in turn partnered with DST Global for its Facebook investment in 2009. DST has since sold its stake in the social network.
- Twitter: Russian state-controlled bank VTB poured $191 million into one of DST's funds, which helped purchase a stake in Twitter in 2011. DST has since sold its stake.
Thought bubble: There's no doubt that this revelation is bad news for the social media companies as they face questions from Congress over Russia's influence over last year's U.S. presidential elections. And both VTB and Gazprom's parent company are under U.S. sanctions. However, as the ICIJ and partner media outlets note, there's no evidence that DST helped the Russian government gain influence over the social media companies.
Update: DST Global issued a long statement following the publication of the investigation. Read it in the New York Times.