Very popular in Russian-speaking countries, VKontakte, formerly Mail.ru, is a social network with nearly 100 million subscribers, mostly Russian.

Founded in 2006 by Pavel Durov, the designer of Telegram secure messaging, this network has always struggled to maintain its independence.

It is now up to the Kremlin, which can control most of its decisions.

Independence in question

Already in 2011, VKontakte had to publish in the press an open letter entitled "VKontakte will remain independent" to reassure its users, after the arrival of new shareholders particularly favorable to the demands of the Kremlin.

A year later, the intelligence services asked the site to block the accounts of the opponent Alexeï Navalny.

At the time, the network was the main place of expression of opposition from activists and organizations.

In 2013, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation demanded access to the accounts of Ukrainian activists engaged in pro-European protests in Maidan Square in Kiev.

Pavel Durov then left the country in 2014, never to return.

He acquired French nationality last August.

The companies Sogaz, Gazprom and Gazprombank were used by the Kremlin to reach the social network.

The liquidation by Russian billionaire Alisher Ousmanov, who controlled a significant part of VKontakte's parent company, completely changed the group's center of gravity.

At the same time, Gazprombank, a Russian private bank controlled by the Gazprom company, increased its stake in the group from 36% to 45%, before handing its shares to Gazprom-Media, the media branch of the parent company, on Friday.

The transaction does not have a great economic value since the two Gazprom companies will receive less than 5% of the profits.

It is above all a question of making it an instrument of influence.

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