Russia oligarchs: The mega-rich men facing global sanctions The governments of the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by imposing crippling penalties on billionaire businessmen who are believed to be members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Mr Putin has warned his friends for many years that they must take precautions to safeguard themselves against such actions, particularly when relations with the United States and European Union countries deteriorated following the annexation of Crimea.
However, while some of his closest associates followed his advise and remained engaged in Russia, others chose to invest their money in palatial mansions abroad and football teams, and their firms continued to be listed on foreign stock exchanges.
Russia oligarchs: The mega-rich men facing global sanctions
They are now fighting to cling on to their assets in the face of the most extensive economic penalties levied in the modern age, which have caused them to lose their way. Listed below is what we know about a few of them.
SANCTIONED BY: THE UNITED STATES, THE EU, AND THE UK
Alisher Usmanov, a Russian oligarch who is said to be one of Mr Putin’s favorite oligarchs, is also one of the wealthiest, with a net worth estimated at $17.6 billion, according to Forbes. He used to be a professional fencer, and the European Union characterizes him as a “businessman-official” who assists the president in resolving business issues.
He was born in Uzbekistan while it was still a part of the Soviet Union, and he is the CEO of USM Holdings, a massive conglomerate that owns mining and telecommunications companies, including Russia’s second largest mobile network, MegaFon, and other businesses.
The European Union declared penalties against him on February 28th, and the United States and the United Kingdom have followed suit. He has argued that the punishments are unjust and that all of the allegations leveled against him are untrue.
He appears to be attempting to evade EU fines because he owns just under 50% of USM Holdings, which is a holding company. His superyacht Dilbar, which was named after his mother, is currently undergoing a renovation in Hamburg and is in danger of being seized.
In the United Kingdom, his most conspicuous interests are in real estate. His properties in London include Beechwood Estate, a country house with grounds in the midst of the city worth £65 million, and Sutton Place, a Tudor mansion in Surrey, which he purchased for £20 million. Both have been froze by the authorities in the United Kingdom.
Everton is owned by Mr Usmanov’s business partner Farhad Moshiri, and Mr Usmanov’s companies USM, MegaFon, and Yota have all been major sponsors of the club, with some speculating that his relationship was even more intimate. Everton terminated the sponsorship agreement last week, and Mr Moshiri resigned from his position on the USM board of directors.
SANCTIONED BY: THE UNITED KINGDOM AND THE EU
Roman Abramovich, one of the most well-known Russian billionaires as a result of the spectacular success of his football team Chelsea FC, was sanctioned later than some of his fellow Putin loyalists, maybe because he is less overtly influential than some of his fellow Putin supporters.
The extent to which he wields power in the Kremlin is up for discussion. Some feel Mr Putin simply tolerates him, but the United Kingdom believes the two are close and that Mr Abramovich has benefited financially from the friendship, as evidenced by lucrative contracts for the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018.
The UK share of Mr Abramovich’s estimated $12.4 billion fortune has been blocked, despite his robust denials that he has intimate ties to Mr Putin or the Kremlin. He put Chelsea up for sale at £3 billion just a few days before the UK sanctions were announced. His £150 million home in London’s Kensington Palace Gardens was also apparently up for sale, according to reports.
Mr Abramovich made his fortune in the 1990s and was one of the first oligarchs to emerge under Boris Yeltsin’s presidency of the Russian Federation. His biggest break came when he was able to purchase the oil company Sibneft at a deep discount. His holdings include the Eclipse, the third-longest yacht in the world, which recently departed the British Virgin Islands on its way to the east coast of the United States. Solaris, his other mega-yacht, is currently docked in the Mediterranean.
In recent years, he had begun to withdraw from the United Kingdom. In 2018, he made the decision not to apply for a renewal of his UK visa and has instead been traveling to London with his newly acquired Israeli passport. And, while he used to attend every Chelsea home game, he has become increasingly infrequent at Stamford Bridge in recent years – to the point where he has been barred from entering the United Kingdom.
THE UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED KINGDOM
Oleg Deripaska was enormously wealthy when President Putin came to power, with a net worth of over $28 billion at its peak – but he is now estimated to be worth only $3 billion.
In the 1990s, he clawed his way to the top of the corporate ladder, emerging victorious from a violent war for control of the aluminum business. The United States asserted that he was involved in money laundering, bribery, extortion, and racketeering, and that he had “directed the death of a businessman” and “had ties to a Russian organized crime organization.” He categorically disputes the charges.
He suffered greatly during the 2008 financial crisis and was forced to rely on Russian President Vladimir Putin to bail him out. In 2009, President Putin humiliated him by publicly implying that he had stolen a pen from the Kremlin. Since then, he appears to have re-established himself in the president’s good graces, and he was described as “closely aligned” with the president in the Mueller report – a study detailing Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election – released last month. His strong association with Mr Putin was also mentioned by the United Kingdom when it imposed its sanctions against him.
He formed En+ Group, a green energy and metals firm that is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, but he sold his position in the company after being subjected to US sanctions in 2018. He now owns less than half of the company. During that time, one of Mr Deripaska’s companies, Basic Element, issued a statement in which it referred to the penalties as “groundless, stupid, and preposterous.”
He owns a massive art deco property in Weybridge, Surrey, which he has been attempting to sell for £18 million, but which has now been withdrawn off the market due to lack of interest. In addition, he has a yacht named Clio, which was recently spotted in the Maldives by a photographer.
Instead of remaining silent on the war, Mr Deripaska has been outspoken, taking to social media to advocate for a cessation of hostilities. “Negotiations must begin as soon as possible!” he exclaimed in his letter.
SANCTIONED BY: THE UNITED STATES, THE EU, AND THE UK
According to the European Union, which issued sanctions against Igor Sechin on February 28th, Sechin’s ties to Vladimir Putin are extensive and deeply ingrained. In addition to being one of Mr Putin’s most trusted and closest aides, he is claimed to be a personal buddy, and the two are said to communicate on a daily basis with one another.
His advancement was made possible by mercilessly pushing opponents aside – he is known in the Russian press as “Darth Vader” because of this. “He’s so mysterious that it’s been suggested he may not actually exist, but rather is a type of urban fiction, a bogeyman, produced by the Kremlin to instill terror,” according to a leaked US embassy cable from 2008. In 2014, the United States slapped sanctions on him, which he described as “completely unreasonable and illegitimate.” On the 24th of February, they issued fresh punishments against him.
Mr Sechin has spent his professional life alternating between positions in politics and business, holding high positions in both at the same time on occasion. Putin served as deputy prime minister during his time as prime minister, and he now serves as chairman of the national oil company Rosneft.
When Mr Putin and Mr Sechin worked together in the mayor’s office in St Petersburg in the 1990s, Mr Sechin was widely believed to have been a member of the KGB, the Soviet Union’s feared intelligence service, although he has never publicly confessed to this.
No one knows how much money Mr Sechin has because he is based in Russia, but the French have seized a yacht called Amore Vero that had been linked to him when his second wife Olga Sechina posted photos of herself on board. They have subsequently separated and divorced.
Beyond that, there is little indication that he has significant money in foreign countries that may be easily discovered, and it may be difficult to trace down and freeze any more of his assets.
THE UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED KINGDOM
Alexey Miller is another of Vladimir Putin’s long-time associates. Mr Putin’s deputy on the international relations committee of the St Petersburg mayor’s office in the 1990s, he, too, has based his career on his fidelity to the president, beginning when he was Mr Putin’s deputy on the foreign relations committee of the St Petersburg mayor’s office.
He has been the CEO of Russia’s enormously powerful state-owned gas corporation Gazprom since 2001, although his appointment came as a surprise, and it is commonly considered that he is simply carrying out the commands of his former employer. In 2009, the United States ambassador to Moscow branded Gazprom as “inefficient, politically motivated, and corrupt.”.
Mr Miller was not sanctioned following the takeover of Crimea in 2014, but when he was added to the sanctions list in the United States in 2018, he expressed his pride in the development. “Being left off of the first list is a disappointment. I even had some reservations – perhaps anything was wrong? But, at long last, I’m included. This indicates that we are following all of the proper procedures “he explained.
Outside of Russia, he does not appear to have any clearly traceable assets, and there is no information available on his net worth.
EU AND UNITED KINGDOM ENDORSEMENT
Pyotr Aven (shown on the left) is considered to be one of President Putin’s closest oligarchs, while Mikhail Fridman is considered to be an enabler of Putin’s inner circle by the European Union. Alfa-Bank, Russia’s largest private bank, was founded by the two individuals who worked together.
He visited with Putin in the Kremlin around four times a year, according to the Mueller report, and “knew that any suggestions or critiques Putin made during these meetings were implicit instructions, and that there would be consequences for Aven if he did not follow through.”
In 2016, Mr Putin sent a warning to them, advising them to safeguard their interests in the event of additional penalties. Because their shares were blocked by EU sanctions on February 28th, the couple decided to step down from the LetterOne investment business, which has its headquarters in London and was created by them approximately ten years ago. Mr. Aven also resigned from his position as a trustee of the Royal Academy of Arts, located in London.
A statement from the two businessmen stated that they will “vigorously and by all available means challenge the bogus and baseless foundation for the imposition of these fines”.
In addition to his London home near Lord’s Cricket Ground, Mr Fridman also owns a massive property in north London, Athlone House, which he purchased for £65 million in 2016. Mr Fridman is estimated to be worth approximately $12 billion.
At a news appearance in London on March 1, he described the Ukraine conflict as a “great tragedy,” but he refused to criticize the Kremlin directly, claiming that doing so would jeopardize the jobs of hundreds of thousands of government employees.