MOSCOW: The founder of the social network Facebook Mark Zuckerberg is to visit Russia next week and hold talks on innovation with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the government said on Friday.
Zuckerberg will be visiting Russia at a time when Internet and social network use is exploding in the country, even though Facebook lags well behind top Russian-language social network VKontakte and other homegrown rivals in user figures.
“The meeting will take place on Monday,” Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalya Timakova was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
“They will discuss cooperation in IT-technology and start-ups in Skolkovo,” the technology hub outside Moscow that has been championed by Medvedev as a Russian equivalent of Silicon Valley.
Regularly brandishing an iPad at government meetings and publishing comments on Twitter, former president Medvedev likes to promote himself as the main proponent of a drive to give Russia a more innovation-based economy.
Critics have regularly ridiculed his often banal utterances on Twitter and noted that the Russian economy is no closer to weaning itself off a dangerous dependence on hydrocarbon exports.
Nevertheless, Medvedev has almost 1.5 million followers on Twitter and also keeps accounts on Facebook and VKontakte as well as a Live Journal blog.
According to the Vedomosti daily, Zuckerberg will also be attending the Facebook World Hack in Moscow, an event when programmers get together to suggest ideas for the social network's development.
Although it is believed to be his first visit to Russia, Zuckerberg's company already has close links to the Russian Internet sector.
Russian technology investment firm DST Global, whose main shareholder is oligarch Alisher Usmanov, has a stake of at least five percent in Facebook although some observers estimate that the holding is even higher.
The anti-Kremlin demonstrations that rocked Russia since December have largely been coordinated through social networks and analysts say that the increase in Internet use poses a significant challenge for the domination of President Vladimir Putin.