Two Russian state institutions with close ties to Vladimir Putin funded substantial investments in Twitter and Facebook through a business associate of Jared Kushner, leaked documents reveal. The investments were made through a Russian technology magnate, Yuri Milner, who also holds a stake in a company co-owned by Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser. The discovery is likely to stir concerns over Russian influence in US politics and the role played by social media in last year’s presidential election. It may also raise new questions for the social media companies and for Kushner. Alexander Vershbow, who was a US ambassador to Russiaunder George W Bush and to Nato under Bill Clinton, said the Russian state institutions were frequently used as “tools for Putin’s pet political projects”. Vershbow said the findings were concerning in light of efforts by Moscow to disrupt US democracy and public debate. “There clearly was a wider plan, despite Putin’s protestations to the contrary,” he said.
The investments are detailed in the Paradise Papers, a trove of millions of leaked documents reviewed by the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other partners, along with other previously unreported filings.
Facebook and Twitter were not made aware that funding for the investments came from the state-controlled VTB Bank and a financial arm of the state oil and gas firm Gazprom, according to Milner. A spokesman for Kushner declined to comment.
The files show that in 2011, VTB funded a $191m investment in Twitter. About the same time, Gazprom Investholding financed an opaque offshore company, which in turn funded a vehicle that held $1bn-worth of Facebook shares.