Pavel Durov, the founder of leading Russian social networking site VK, has launched a clone of the mobile messaging app Telegram called Telegram HD with additional features such as iPad support, faster videos and animated gifs. The release marks a new stage in the ongoing battle over the legal ownership of the original Telegram app.
Durov has registered Telegram HD to the firm Telegram Messenger LLP, a different company to the original app, which was registered to US firm Telegram LLC by its legal owner, investment fund United Capital Partners (UCP).
The original Telegram was developed by Durov and his brother Nikolai in 2013, who are now locked in a legal battle with UCP, the majority shareholders of VK, over the ownership of the app.
While Durov has accused UCP of illegally gaining ownership of the Telegram in the US, the investment fund has claimed VK is the rightful owner of the app as it was created using company resources.
According to a statement from UCP, the company launched separate legal proceedings against Durov in April, accusing him of allegedly embezzling corporate funds and diverting corporate opportunities for his own benefit.
Durov’s ongoing conflict with VK’s Kremlin-friendly shareholders — UCP and Mail.ru are headed by metal magnate and government supporter Alisher Usmanov — has been well documented by the media. Durov’s position as a free speech advocate sparked tensions with shareholders following his refusal to shut down groups on VK that opposed the ruling United Russia party during the 2011 anti-government protests.
Durov fled Russia in April claiming persecution and has received citizenship from the Caribbean island St Kitts and Nevis, although he is reportedly based in the US.