Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire whose holdings have included major stakes in Facebook and Twitter. Kremlin Cash Behind Billionaire’s Twitter and Facebook Investments Leaked files show that a state-controlled bank in Moscow helped to fuel Yuri Milner’s ascent in Silicon Valley, where the Russia investigation has put tech companies under scrutiny. In the fall of 2010, the Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner took the stage for a Q. Now, leaked documents examined by The New York Times offer a partial answer: Behind Mr. Milner’s investments in Facebook and Twitter were hundreds of millions of dollars from how To Invest In Facebook Shares Kremlin.
Obscured by a maze of offshore shell companies, the Twitter investment was backed by VTB, a Russian state-controlled bank often used for politically strategic deals. And a big investor in Mr. Milner’s Facebook deal received financing from Gazprom Investholding, another government-controlled financial institution, according to the documents. Milner’s companies came to own more than 8 percent of Facebook and 5 percent of Twitter, helping earn him a place on various lists of the world’s most powerful business people. His companies sold those holdings several years ago, but he retains investments in several other large technology companies and continues to make new deals.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have become a major focus of federal investigations into Kremlin interference in the 2016 election. No one has suggested that Mr. Milner or his companies had any connection to the propaganda operation. Milner said in a pair of recent interviews that the Russian government money was no different from the financing he had received from his many other investors around the world. DST USA II and DST Investments 3.
Even so, his use of the state-directed apparatus employed by so many Russian oligarchs to enrich themselves shows how the Kremlin has extended its long financial arm not only to his company but to some of America’s technology giants. Michael Carpenter, the Russia director at the National Security Council during the Obama administration, who is now senior director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Oligarchs who receive significant amounts of financial support from Russian banks like VTB or Sberbank or Gazprombank have to pass above a political threshold, meaning such support requires the explicit or tacit approval of those at the top of Russia’s crony capitalist system. There is nothing illegal about foreign state-owned institutions investing in American companies. VTB and Gazprom said the transactions were both sound investments, not motivated by political considerations. We are getting money, and we are putting them in Facebook and Twitter.
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We are making money for our limited partners, and we are giving money back to them. For me, it’s a commercial arrangement. A statement from DST Global, Mr. Milner’s venture capital firm, appears here. Milner, 55, studied theoretical physics at Moscow State University before moving to the United States, where he attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1990s and then worked for the World Bank in Washington. Milner eventually teamed with Alisher Usmanov — an Uzbek-Russian oligarch close to the Russian prime minister, Dmitri A. Medvedev — and a former Goldman Sachs executive to build a large stake in Mail.
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Russian internet company that now trades on the London Stock Exchange. Milner’s initial American investments came as he served on an innovation commission set up in 2009 by Mr. Medvedev, who was Russia’s president at the time and is something of a tech enthusiast, famously touring Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Milner’s new venture capital firm, DST Global, also amassed a significant stake in Facebook.
Milner, right, with Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook. The company, along with Twitter and other social media sites, has become a major focus of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said at the time. The documents reviewed by The Times reveal that DST brought something else as well: a connection — through a succession of shell companies — to the Kremlin. Moscow, the Obama administration was encouraging Russia to learn from the American technology industry.
Importing tech knowledge, the theory went, would ease Russia’s dependence on exporting oil and gas. For the Facebook deal, it was Gazprom, the state-controlled natural-gas giant, that became the bridge. The company, a vital component of the Putin government, has employed its financial subsidiary, Gazprom Investholding, to reclaim assets privatized during the 1990s. Ilya Zaslavskiy, a contributor to the Kleptocracy Initiative, a project of the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.
Both VTB and Gazprom Investholding’s parent, Gazprom, are under United States sanctions stemming from Russia’s support of separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Over several years, Gazprom Investholding and a subsidiary made hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to a company called Kanton Services, according to records from the Panama Papers, the trove of leaked documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca. Kanton, based in the British Virgin Islands, had numerous ties to Mr. Kanton was owned by a longtime Usmanov business associate, and was controlled by Matthias Bolliger, a director of numerous subsidiaries of Mr. Usmanov’s main holding company, USM Holdings, according to an Appleby memo and the Panama Papers. And an email sent by a trust company on the Isle of Man used by Mr. Milner said his investors’ identities were not generally public information.