'From Facebook With Love': Zuckerberg heads to Russia

The Facebook CEO travels to Russia next month to visit the prime minister and a billionaire industrialist, The Wall Street Journal reports. Russia is a country the social network has yet to dominate.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
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Zuckerberg during an interview at TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this month. James Martin/CNET

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is headed to Russia next week to meet with a billionaire who is developing a Silicon Valley-like business park near Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

In addition to visiting "billionaire industrialist" Viktor Vekselberg and the Skolkovo Innovation Center just outside Moscow, Zuckerberg will meet with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a Skolkovo Innovation Center representative told the Journal. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to CNET that Zuckerberg is indeed planning to visit Russia.

Vekselberg heads the Skolkovo Foundation, which aims to develop a high-tech complex that will draw top tech talent to Russia, and it's looking for support from tech powerhouses like Facebook to help its cause.

Meeting with an influential Russian mogul can't hurt Facebook's cause either. The social network has not been shy about its goal of world domination, and Russia is one market that's been tough to crack.

Facebook announced several months ago that it has 5 million users in Russia, and the social network plans to update the public on that number next week.

It faces fierce competition from homegrown social network VKontakte (the company's founder is Pavel Durov, who is known as "Russia's Mark Zuckerberg").

As a result, Russia is among the countries where Facebook is used by less than 15 percent of Web surfers, according to Facebook's SEC filing. Other countries that fall into this category are Japan and South Korea, but neither of those countries has a population as large as Russia's more than 140 million people.

In the past, Facebook has taken money from Russia-based Digital Sky Technologies for strategic purposes. The Russian investment company has reported ties to the government, which, it says, makes doing business in Russia go more smoothly.

Update, 2:37 p.m. PT: Updated with Facebook confirmation and number of users in Russia.