Russian investigators said Wednesday they had searched the home of the young founder of the country’s most popular social networking site in a probe into a drive-by attack on a policeman.
Pavel Durov, 28, founded the VKontakte (In Contact) social networking site in 2006 and is often compared to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Rarely speaking in public, the chief executive prefers to post messages on the site, which has 200 million users.
The spokesman for the Investigative Committee in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, Andrei Isayev, told AFP: “Searches took place at the VKontakte office on Nevsky Prospekt (street) and at Pavel Durov’s home.”
In an official statement on Wednesday, investigators said the searches related to an incident in which a traffic policeman was injured by a driver who ignored an order to stop.
The probe investigates non-fatal violence against an official, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.
Investigators said that a white Mercedes refused to stop on April 5 and drove into a traffic policeman, causing bruises and grazes, before driving off.
VKontakte spokesman Georgy Lobushkin denied that Durov was involved or even owned a car.
“When you drive over a policeman, it’s very important to drive back and forward a few times to squeeze out all the soft parts,” Durov himself wrote jokingly on VKontakte.
So far no one has been charged and the investigation is continuing.
Russia has recently cracked down on the Internet, a vibrant forum for opposition debate, passing laws making it easier to block sites deemed extremist or harmful to minors.
Spokesman Lobushkin wrote on his page late Tuesday that investigators removed a server with outside security camera footage from the company’s office on Nevsky Prospekt.
VKontakte is far more popular than Facebook among Russians, most of whom have poor English language skills. In a sign of its clout, Hollywood star Tom Cruise recently opened a page on the site.
Durov has run into problems with the Russian authorities over the posting of pirated material on VKontakte and said in 2011 that he had refused to delete an opposition group on security service orders.
He describes his political views as “libertarian”.
Last year he caused anger among some Russians by writing on Twitter that Stalin’s victory over Hitler in World War II had allowed the dictator to continue repressing the Soviet people.
[“Russian Federation Police Officer Holding An Ak47 Rifle Safely With The Finger Away From The Trigger.” on Shutterstock]