Zarina Zabrisky
May 22, 2018 · 7 min read

Hard Facts

Left: Milner and Zuckerberg. Right: Putin and Usmanov.


Zuckerberg and Milner are good friends. Zuckerberg attended Milner’s wedding in California late in 2011. They also advise each other on philanthropic ventures..


One of the major investors in Facebook is a Russian company run by two oligarchs close to Putin.

  • In 2009, Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global) was set up by Yuri Milner and Alisher Usmanov. Usmanov used Gazprom money for his Facebook and Twitter investments.

According to the Guardian’s Jon Swaine and Luke Harding, “the trail begins in December 2005, when Gazprom Investholding began putting money into Kanton Services, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Usmanov was at the time general director of Gazprom Investholding, which the Kremlin has used to renationalise assets sold off in the 1990s.”

Gazprom in effect took control of Kanton in 2009 in return for $920m.

Source: Guardian.
  • Usmanov owns 32% in DST.

According to the Guardian, there was “a bewildering array of companies using similar names and acronyms, some registered offshore in places that offer secrecy about ownership. The arrangements are legal, but have led campaigners to demand more transparency.”

  • In May 2009, DST invested $200 million in Facebook.

In 2011, Kanton in turn, took a majority stake in DST USA II, a vehicle publicly associated with Milner.

  • In 2012, Gazprom Investholding financed an offshore company to finance Milner’s 8% stake in Facebook.

By 2012, DST USA II had bought more than 50m shares in Facebook, according to filings at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, amounting to more than 3% of the social media company.

Over the following months, ownership of DST USA II was transferred to an Usmanov company, which sold off $1bn worth of the shares in Facebook at a significant profit after the social network floated on the stock market.

The ultimate owner of Kanton was not made clear, but the company has several ties to Usmanov. An executive who dealt with Kanton on another deal, who requested anonymity to discuss private details, said: “I was led to believe this was one of Usmanov’s investment companies,” according to the Guardian.

Let’s reinforce: DST received money from Gazprom Investholdings.

Gazprom Investholdings’s director: Alisher Usmanov.

Gazprom Investholdins is a financial subsidiary of Gazprom.

Gazprom, Russia’s largest company and the world’s biggest public energy supplier, is owned by the Russian Government (50.23%) and is involved in the Russian Government’s domestic and international policies, including mass media control.

In April 2001, Gazprom took over an independent popular NTV channel. Putin arrested and exiled the oligarchs and shareholders of the NTV channel and appointed his classmates and friends to the managerial positions. NTV is now owned by Gazprom-media, that is owned by Gazprombank, a state-owned Russian bank, which in its turn is owned by Gazprom. The Chairman of the Management Committee of Gazprom, Alexey Miller, is a longterm friend of Putin.

Carter Page, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, has investments in the Russian government owned gas company Gazprom. He worked in Moscow for Merrill Lynch in 2004–2007. A partner in his New York-based investment fund is a former Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko. The fund specialty is oil and gas deals in Russia and other Central Asian countries.

During Trump’s presidential campaign, Michael Cohen became a partner at the law firm Squire Patton Boggs that lobbied for Gazprombank in 2014, after the US imposed sanctions. Squire Patton Boggs received about $450,000 for the work in the nine months through March 2015.


Alisher Usmanov’s wife was a gymnastics trainer of Putin’s mistress (a gymnast.)

  • These personal ties and soap opera worthy details are not meant to provide a cheap thrill. It is critical to understand the family-like connections between Putin and his “business” accomplices.
Nikita Kulachenkov, a forensic accountant and political activist fighting against corruption in the Russian government, formerly a principal investigator at the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Moscow and founded by Alexei Navalny, making a presentation, called Vladimir Putin’s Business Accomplices, at PutinCon conference in NY in April 2018.

Russian oligarchs do not own their fortunes. They are members of the organized crime network reporting to the Kremlin. They play a double role: independent investors and the Kremlin agents of influence.

Nikita Kulachenkov on Usmanov.


Russia’s communications minister tweeted that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to lure away Russian programmers and instead open a research center in Moscow. Zuckerberg was visiting Russia on a world tour of programming contests to identify new talent.

Milner once advised the Russian government on technology through a presidential commission chaired by Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and current prime minister.

Now based in California’s Silicon Valley, Milner has invested $7bn in more than 30 online companies including Twitter, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber, Spotify, Zynga, Groupon and is rumored to be in talks to invest in Twitter. and the Chinese retailers Alibaba and JD.com.


Milner also holds a stake in a company co-owned by Jared Kushner.



In December 2011, Milner (La Paloma Property, LLC) purchased the property “Palo Alto Loire Chateau” at 13310 La Paloma Rd from ESS Technology founder Fred Shiu Leung Chan and his wife Annie Chan for a record-breaking price for a single-family home in Los Altos Hills $100 million which was double the assessed value of the property ($50.27 million).

*(For a record, in 2008, Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev (Country Road Property, LLC) purchased the property at 515 N. Country Rd, from Donald Trump for a record-breaking $95 million which was over double the value that Trump had paid for the property in 2004 ($41.4 million) and $40 million more than the value that Palm Beach County appraised the property at in 2013 ($59.8 million).)

The property is the most expensive single family home in the U.S.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the house was not on the market and the Chans were helping to finance the sale, providing Milner with a $50 million dollar loan.

A year later, the Santa Clara County assessor told the Mercury News that the estate is worth markedly less than Milner paid for it: $50.27 million to be exact.

“For whatever reason, and we don’t know, Mr. Milner purchased the property at more than it’s fair market value,” explains Larry Stone, Santa Clara County Assessor. “It doesn’t happen very often and we knew at the time that it was unusual…since the highest assessed residential property in Silicon Valley prior to that time was $28.5 million.”

Rumor has it that Milner, whose primary residence is located in Moscow, hasn’t even occupied it yet. (as of 2012.)

The assessed value of Milner’s chateau is $50.27 million, from which the assessor calculated the $600,000 tax bill.

*Additional reporting on investment by Wendy Siegelman.

If you believe that all this is one big unfortunate coincidence:

  1. Ask yourself: did you happen to attend Mark Zuckerberg’s wedding? Did you visit with the President of the Russian Federation? Do you happen to have Gazprom on your resume?

*All facts and photos are in public domain and available through Google. Links to the original sources are included.

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