Pavel Durov, the man who founded Russia's most popular social network, VKontakte (ВКонтакте), announced on Monday that he had been fired, and that the site had been put "under the complete control" of two close allies of President Vladimir Putin.
The social network, which had over 239 million accounts across the Russian-speaking world as of January 2014,is ranked 23 in the global top 500 sites and is the second most visited website in Russia, after Yandex. Its name means "in touch".
Last week, the press-shy 29-year-old Durov posted on the site that he had in the past received requests to shut down groups on the site related to resistance groups, such as those supporting opposition leader Alexey Navalny and to anti-government protests in Ukraine.
Durov said he had come under months of increasing pressure from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, to also release personal information about opposition activists who use the social network.
Durov claims that he refused, and that this was the reason for his being fired. It appears that a resignation he filed as a protest wasn't properly withdrawn before the one-month window for withdrawal had passed.
"Based on what has been reported, the board of directors of VKontake today has *suddenly* discovered that the withdrawal of my letter of resignation on April 3 — which they had previously publicly accepted — turned out to be drawn up 'not in accordance with all the rules,' and so I'm automatically relieved of the position," he wrote on his personal Vkontakte page.
"As a result of my public renunciation last week I was fired today as CEO VKontakte," Durov wrote on the site before leaving. "Interestingly, the shareholders didn't have the courage to do it to my face, and I heard of my mysterious dismissal from the press."
"Probably, in the Russian context, something like this was inevitable, but I'm happy we lasted seven and a half years," Durov said. "We did a lot. And part of what's been done can't be reversed."
A famously pro-Putin Russian news website RT.com was compromised by hackers back in March, who changed the word "Russian" in several articles to the word "Nazi" in apparent protest over Russian military movements in Crimea.