ST. PETERSBURG, April 18 (RIA Novosti) – Investigators in St. Petersburg have summoned the founder of Russia’s most popular social networking website, VKontakte, for questioning over a traffic incident that injured a police officer, an official said on Thursday.
Media reports earlier said that VKontakte founder Pavel Durov, 28, had been involved in the April 5 incident in St. Petersburg. News channels said the officer had been injured while a white Mercedes was attempting to outrun a police car. Media reports also said Durov was behind the wheel of the car, but fled.
A local Investigative Committee official, Sergei Kapitonov, told Russia’s online Dozhd TV channel on Thursday that Durov had been summoned as a witness in the case, adding that he was due to be questioned “today or tomorrow.” A VKontakte spokesman told RIA Novosti that he was unaware of Durov’s plans and could not say if he intended to answer the summons.
Investigators have opened a case of violence against a state official, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail, over the incident, which took place near the company’s offices.
Durov’s representatives say he does not drive and uses the city’s metro.
Investigators carried out searches at both VKontakte’s St. Petersburg offices and Durov’s home on Tuesday evening. Media reports said the searches were connected to the traffic accident, but investigators declined to comment.
The summons came the day after the investment fund United Capital Partners (UCP) closed a deal to purchase a 48-percent stake in VKontakte from Durov’s fellow co-founders, Vyacheslav Mirilashvily and Lev Leviyev. The sum of the deal was not disclosed. Durov declined to comment on the deal.
Established in 2006, VKontakte has some 200 million registered users and is more popular than Facebook in Russia.
In December 2011, at the height of anti-Kremlin protests, Durov said he had refused an order from the security services to delete the pages of opposition groups from the site, including that of anti-corruption blogger and political activist Alexei Navalny.
“I don’t know how this might affect us, but we are sticking to our position,” Durov said. “Vkontakte is a 100-percent apolitical company. We support neither the authorities nor the opposition, and no particular political party.”
When contacted by RIA Novosti immediately after Durov’s statement, the Federal Security Service (FSB) declined to comment.
Durov denied a report in the opposition-minded Novaya Gazeta newspaper earlier this year that alleged he had offered to help the Kremlin in its online battle with protest groups.