MOSCOW—Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has hired PBN H+K Strategies for PR support in Russia, as the country rapidly becomes an important element of its ambitious international growth plans.

The company is understood to have tapped H+K to oversee public affairs and communications for its Russian offering, which includes the and sites.

Aliexpress, the company's international shopping platform, has already established itself as Russia's top shopping site, ahead of and Ebay. The country accounts for 15% of Aliexpress' audience, and is a  key driver of global growth, alongside Brazil and the US, where Alibaba recently launched the largest global IPO ever.

According to figures from Data Insight, Russian ecommerce revenues grew by 28% to $16.3bn last year, making it an important battleground for several companies, including Alibaba, Ebay and local rivals. In addition, Russian billionaires Alisher Usmanov and Yuri Milner are both investors in Alibaba.

It is understood that the Russian communications assignment is being overseen by Molly Morgan, senior manager of international corporate affairs at Alibaba EMEA. Both Morgan and representatives from H+K, however, declined to comment.