Support The Moscow Times!

Telegram Founder Durov Unleashes Storm of Shirtless Russian Men

Pavel Durov Screenshot / Instagram Pavel Durov

Internet maverick Pavel Durov is calling on Russians to take off their shirts in the footsteps of President Vladimir Putin.

Inspired by photos from Putin’s fishing trip to Siberia — during which the 64-year-old president undressed — the founder of the Vkontakte website and Telegram messenger service published a shirtless photograph of himself on Instagram in response.

“My Instagram had to seriously step up the game to keep up with the increased competition from Mr. Putin’s shirtless photos,” he wrote in English.

“If you’re Russian, you have to join #PutinShirtlessChallenge (or face oblivion). Two rules from Putin — no photoshop, no pumping. Otherwise you’re not an alpha.”

Russians were quick to respond. Within a day of the post, there were more than 360 shirtless photos — with some Russians clearly taking themselves more seriously than others. 

Here’s a selection of the best ones so far. 

Russian politician Dmitry Gudkov:

#PutinShirtlessChallenge

Публикация от DenisM (@denismakoviichuk)

#putinshirtlesschallenge

A post shared by @ignatfoto on

Durov sold his shares in Vkontakte in 2014 and left Russia after running foul of the authorities and proceeded to launch the encrypted messenger service, Telegram. In recent months, he once again clashed with the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor after it threatened to ban Telegram unless it officially registered with the Russian authorities.

Durov eventually agreed for Telegram to be registered, but said he would not grant authorities access to users' data. 

Read more

Independent journalism isn’t dead. You can help keep it alive.

As the only remaining independent, English-language news source reporting from Russia, The Moscow Times plays a critical role in connecting Russia to the world.

Editorial decisions are made entirely by journalists in our newsroom, who adhere to the highest ethical standards. We fearlessly cover issues that are often considered off-limits or taboo in Russia, from domestic violence and LGBT issues to the climate crisis and a secretive nuclear blast that exposed unknowing doctors to radiation.

As we approach the holiday season, please consider making a one-time donation — or better still a recurring donation — to The Moscow Times to help us continue producing vital, high-quality journalism about the world’s largest country.