Founders of AI company NtechLab say they resigned over projects in Russia

FILE PHOTO: A signboard with the logo of software firm NTechLab is on display at the company’s offices in Moscow, Russia January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Alexander Marrow

(Reuters) - The founders of artificial intelligence company NtechLab said they resigned over disagreements with the company’s management and investors about projects in Russia.

One of the founders left Russia in December 2021 while the other left in March 2022, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they said.

The two founders’ comments came after Reuters published a special report on Tuesday about how Russian law enforcement officials use facial recognition to identify and detain protesters and opposition activists. NtechLab’s FindFace is one of the algorithms that powers Moscow’s facial recognition system.

The Russian founders, Artem Kukharenko and Alexander Kabakov, said the main disagreement was that they wanted NtechLab to end all work in Russia and relocate all Russia-based employees, while the company’s management wanted to continue operating in Russia.

"Most shareholders supported management, so we had no other option than to resign from the company," Kukharenko told Reuters.

NtechLab did not respond to a request for comment.

The founders said they started discussions about ending all projects in Russia after opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned in August 2020.

"It became clear that the country is moving towards a disaster, although no one could have imagined that the country would start a war," said Kukharenko, who was head of research at NtechLab prior to his resignation.

Kukharenko and Kabakov declined to provide more details about the disagreement or why they wanted to end NtechLab’s work in Russia.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they said they both signed an anti-war petition.

(Reporting by Lena Masri; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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