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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Expat.ru Changes Ownership

Expat.ru, the popular online forum for foreigners in Moscow, has new owners who say they are going to introduce long-awaited improvements -- only its not clear who those owners are.

"We are pleased to inform you that The Moscow Expat Site is now under new ownership," said a statement posted on the site's homepage. "We have plans to develop this site to provide a service that is effective and needed here in Moscow and will cater to the expat and English speaking community. ... We congratulate the previous administrators, especially Nicholas Pilugin."

Founded in 1999 by American Nicholas Pilugin as a virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians, the site contains practical information about living in Russia and a forum for buying and selling, apartment rentals, employment opportunities and entertainment.

But how the site changed hands, but who bought it, that is a bit of a mystery. Neither Pilugin nor Expat.ru general manager Polina Topekha would identify the new owner or owners.

Pilugin said a company called Wordsmiths Communications, which he founded, illegally seized the rights to the web site and then sold them without his permission.

"Representatives of the new owners and I are attempting to amicably resolve the situation, and they are interceding on my behalf with the owners of Wordsmiths Communications, who had seized control of the site," he said.

The general manager of the site, Polina Topekha, said a misunderstanding developed between Pilugin and the site's previous owners and that she had suggested finding new owners.

"The new owners bought it so that this good and unique thing is not wasted," she said.

The site has lately been criticized by some users for posting messages that contain racist or abusive language or disguise advertising as private messages.

"Abuse, spam and unpaid advertising -- we have noticed a sharp increase in these areas, and we are installing a number of moderators to reduce this number," the new owners said in the statement.

Topekha said Expat.ru plans to hire one or two expats to sort through the messages to ensure that anything containing strong language appears only in the Bardak, or mess, folder.

Users say the site has not been properly maintained.

"The only thing wrong with the site at the moment is that some members are not using Bardak properly -- it was, as has been mentioned, designed as a playpen to keep all the spurious/offensive posts in one place," said a user with the login name Rabbit_Tentacles.

"The site needs to be updated," RhymesWithBanker said. "Much of the information is quite old; some is very poorly written."

"Give the site a new look and maybe a new feature and everyone will forget real quick the problems of the past few weeks," said user Mnbvc. "It costs nothing to log on, and I used to find it really helpful like a lot of others."