THE TELEGRAM messaging app, one of the most popular social media platforms in Ukraine and Russia, will likely cross one billion active monthly users within a year, its founder said in remarks published on Tuesday.

In a rare interview, Pavel Durov told US journalist Tucker Carlson that the Dubai-based free cloud-based app that allows users to send and receive messages, calls and other files, is spreading like a “forest fire.”

“We’ll probably cross 1 billion monthly active users within a year now,” Mr. Durov, who fully owns Telegram, told Mr. Carlson, according to the video interview posted on Mr. Carlson’s account on the X social media platform.

The goal of the app, which has now 900 million active users, is to remain a “neutral platform” and not a “player in geopolitics,” Mr. Durov said. The Russia-born entrepreneur said he had fled Russia in 2014 citing government interference in a company he founded.

One of Telegram’s main rivals, Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp, has more than two billion monthly active users. The Financial Times reported in March that Telegram would likely aim for a US listing once the company had reached profitability.

After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Telegram has become an instrumental tool for both governments and a go-to place for posting and accessing unfiltered information about the war.

Almost all major media, government entities and public figures in both Russia and Ukraine operate content channels on Telegram.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posts his daily video addresses on the app, while his armed forces warn of air raids and document battlefield developments. The Kremlin announces President Vladimir Putin’s activities on Telegram, while Russia’s opposition rallies for support.

But the app, critics said, has also become a tool of misinformation and manipulation. A bill submitted to the Ukrainian parliament in March looks at stricter regulation of Telegram and other social networks.

The Kremlin told Mr. Durov to be more attentive after the messaging application was allegedly used to help recruit the gunmen who attacked a concert hall outside Moscow in March. — Reuters