Two of Russia’s most powerful state-controlled entities, with close ties to president Vladimir Putin, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Facebook and Twitter through Yuri Milner, a prominent Russian tech investor, reports the New York Times‘s Jesse Drucker. The bombshell is revealed in the new Paradise Papers trove of documents from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the same group behind the groundbreaking Panama Papers in 2015.
In 2011, state-controlled VTB Bank funded a $191 million investment in Twitter and an investment vehicle tied to state-run oil and gas giant Gazprom held $1 billion in Facebook shares. Facebook and Twitter were reportedly not aware that those Kremlin-connected firms were behind the investments and the Russian companies sold those holdings years ago.
Milner, probably the world’s most influential Russian tech investor and the founder of DST Global, has funded numerous startups including Jawbone, 23andMe, and Cadre, a real-estate investing platform co-owned by Jared Kushner and his brother, Joshua.
Though the investments have raised eyebrows, especially in light of the ongoing investigation into the spread of Russian propaganda on Facebook and Twitter, Drucker notes that “No one has suggested that Mr. Milner or his companies had any connection to the propaganda operation.”