The man most wanted by U.S. intelligence agencies may soon go to work for the Russian clone of America’s most-successful website. Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker who received asylum in Russia earlier this year, may be getting a job at VKontakte, a social-networking site based in Russia that advertises itself as Europe’s largest, “with more than a 100 million active users.” (If he really goes to work there, Snowden’s first order of business may be fixing VK’s English grammar.)
Speculation erupted on Thursday that the man who revealed vast spying on the world’s email and telephones by the National Security Agency would go to work at the Russian Facebook.
That’s when Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, said that the 30-year-old American citizen had found employment with “one of Russia’s largest sites,” according to a statement quoted by Russian news site tjournal.ru. The Russian adjective Kucherena used can mean “the largest” as well as “one of the largest,” leaving room for interpretation.
Several large Russian websites are believed to have offered Snowden employment, but they have since shot down those rumors. Mail.ru PR director Ksenia Chabenko told TV Rain that the company hasn’t offered Snowden a job. The head of PR at Yandex, Ochir Mankzhikov, also maintained that the company hasn’t been in talks with Snowden about possible employment there.
Rumors also surfaced last week that Snowden was offered a job at the antivirus giant Kaspersky Lab. But CEO Eugene Kaspersky denied the rumor on Twitter, turning it into a joke:
â€” Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) October 23, 2013
Digit.ru also conducted a survey of major Russian Web companies and received similar responses from Mail.ru and Yandex. VKontakte (Russian for “in contact”) was the only one surveyed that didn't outright deny the rumor. “I’m unable to comment on this topic,” VK press secretary Georgiy Lobushkin, said, while VK director Nikolai Durov ambiguously said, “This is the first I’m hearing of it. If it’s true [that VK will employ Snowden], I wasn’t informed.”
This isn't the first time that Snowden has been mentioned in reference to VK. The company's founder, Pavel Durov, commonly known as Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg, posted Aug. 1 on the social network about wanting Snowden to join: "We invite Edward to St. Petersburg and would be happy if he would join stellar team of programmers at VKontakte. After all, VK is the most popular internet firm in all of Europe. I believe it would be interesting for Edward to work on protecting the private information of our millions of users.”
In an interesting twist, Durov -- who calls himself a libertarian and is prone to bizarre behavior, like throwing money from a window to crowds below -- was accused of a hit-and-run incident earlier this year.
IBtimes' Maria Bromberg contributed reporting for this story.