18 Apr 2018 11:01

Telegram investor reveals secret of messenger's resilience to blocking

MOSCOW. April 18 (Interfax) - A Telegram investor and Qiwi principal shareholder, Sergei Solonin, has explained why the messenger service remains accessible in Russia despite Roskomnadzor's attempts at blocking it.

"Telegram has an inbuilt technology enabling a dynamic change of IP addresses using smartphone functions. Telegram can be changing IP addresses countless times. I do not quite understand how Roskomnadzor can fully block it. Strange they did not realize that before. The entire thing was known from the beginning," Solonin told the Kommersant newspaper in an interview.

It is possible to block Telegram via Apple and Google, Solonin said. "Yet I doubt they will be helping Roskomnadzor deal with the situation because it is absurd and also because they may be next on the same grounds," he said.

Solonin invested about $17 million in the Telegram ICO but said he did not worry about his investment despite the ongoing situation.

"The share of Russia in the messenger is not large. I am prone to believe that the number of Telegram users will grow instead of reducing after such events. This means there will be a positive effect for investment. Even the complete loss of 15 million users will be compensated with the monthly growth of the Telegram community, which stands at approximately the same numbers," Solonin said.

Solonin said he "was more upset with the attitude of authorities." "You see, instead of supporting such platforms as Telegram which equally treats various governments, we are actually supporting services to which Russian security services have discriminated access. This is very disappointing. This is a road to nowhere," he said.

"I have also heard a strictly commercial theory of the ongoing events. In every situation of the kind one should look for the beneficiaries which, excluding Facebook and WhatsApp, are rather obvious. Yet users are likely to choose WhatsApp over the new Russian messenger service," Solonin said.

He called "the precedent of pressure on quite a neutral company" strange and insulting. "Telegram does not share keys with anyone. Why should it be different in Russia? I cannot understand that. Telegram treats all security services equally, which is why the situation sets a bad precedent," he said.

Solonin said he was confused by the actions of the Russian authorities.

"We are depriving ourselves of new technologies, which will definitely have a negative effect on the country's development in general. We are isolating ourselves in the areas which we should support. Let us see what happens in the near future. The number of Telegram users could either decrease or grow. The quality of Telegram service will deteriorate, which will prompt some users to sign out. Still, many will prefer reliability and security over quality. [...] I still think that Telegram has one of the best team of developers and they have a good future," Solonin said.

Telegram raised $1.7 billion in an ICO in February-March to develop the Telegram Open Network (TON) block-chain project. Qiwi head Solonin, the TMT Investments fund, billionaire Roman Abramovich, former Wimm-Bill-Dann co-owner David Yakobashvili, and DST investment company co-founder Yury Milner were named amongst participants ICO.

The Tagansky District Court in Moscow decided on April 13 to block the Telegram messenger service in Russia. Roskomnadzor notified communication operators on April 16 of the need to limit access to Telegram. Telegram's lawyers said on April 17 they had appealed the immediate blocking of the messenger service. The service remains workable despite the blocking attempts of Roskomnadzor which have been ongoing for two days.