Google has announced that it is going to open a research and development centre in Moscow this year.

Sergei Burkov, a former CEO of Dulance, an Internet search company, will run the centre. According to sources, Google has acquired Dulance.

Rumours about Google’s intention to start R&D activity in Russia have been circulating in the industry since last year. Though the company did not comment on them, our sources confirmed two months ago that the company was preparing to open its engineering centre in the country.

The number of employees to work in the new centre has not yet been set. The company ‘will recruit as many first class engineers as they can find.’

Burkov, the new centre head, is a former research physicist who moved to the US from Russia in 1990 and has worked at both Cornell and the University of Wisconsin. He co-founded three companies, Bilbo Innovations (computer pedals), Invincible Data Systems (e-mail and disk encryption, access control and video-streaming encryption utilities developer acquired by Vasco Data Security) and Dulance, Burkov’s latest project.

Dulance is a search and price comparison engine for goods sold over the Web. The service is able to automatically extract data such as names, descriptions and prices of the goods from Web sites, into its database. Potential competitors of Dulance, including Google’s Froogle, use a different mechanism where merchants have to manually upload specifically formatted data.

Until recently, Burkov was the CEO of Dulance, and the history of his transfer to Google seems a big mystery. A couple of weeks ago, the Dulance Web site was shut down.

The press statement sent out by Google’s PR-agency to press members in Russia does not mention Dulance. But as Computerworld Russia has accidentally found out from a source close to the company, Google has acquired Dulance.

It is likely that the Dulance engine will be integrated into the Froogle service.

The employees of Google Russian representative office including its head Vladimir Dolgov were unavailable for comment owing to ‘internal rules’, the agency said.