By Julian Hattem - 04/21/14 05:30 PM EDT
The founder of Russia’s answer to Facebook announced that he had been fired on Monday and that his website was “under the complete control” of two of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies.
“So today VKontakte goes under the complete control of Igor Sechin and Alisher Usmanov,” VKontakte CEO Pavel Durov said in a post on the site on Monday.
Igor Sechin is the head of the state-owned oil company Rosneft, and Alisher Usmanov is an iron ore tycoon who owned millions of shares of Facebook before selling them last year. Both are considered among Putin’s top allies.
Durov’s firing caps weeks of turbulence and confusion about his status at the firm. He claimed to quit earlier this month, then backed off two days later by saying he was making an April Fools' joke.
Since then, he also alleged that the Russian government tried to collect personal information about Ukrainian groups protesting the Kremlin’s intervention in Ukraine.
In his note on Monday, Durov said that the company’s board of directors had not accepted the claim that his attempt to quit had been a joke, “so I was automatically dismissed.”
Earlier this year, Durov sold his 12 percent stake in VKontakte to Usmanov’s business partner for an estimated $420 million. Usmanov’s company, Mail.ru, already owned a 40 percent stake in the social network.
VKontakte is the largest European social network, with more than 100 million active users.