The Kremlin is trying to take advantage of the difficult situation in which Russian businessmen found themselves, after the war began, they left Russia and were placed on the list of sanctioned persons abroad. To find out how businessmen face restrictions, the newspaper’s staff talked to seven Russian businessmen who have been sanctioned, as well as well-known bankers, company heads, former and current officials.
Many said the sanctions were pushing businessmen back to Russia.
“Some of them think, ‘Why do I need all this?’ I will return to Moscow, where I can enjoy walking around restaurants and feel great,” says one businessman. According to him, the sanctions force the elite to establish even closer relations with the Kremlin, even those businessmen who would like to distance themselves from the current Russian government.
And this is not at all the effect that Western governments were hoping for. It was believed that faced with the risk of losing their assets, businessmen would direct their anger at the Kremlin and put pressure on Vladimir Putin.
“In order to stage a coup d’état in the estate and overthrow the tsar, you must first find yourself in it. None of those people are there,” said one of the businessmen on the sanctioned list. According to him, businessmen have no leverage over the Russian president and cannot influence his decisions.
Sanctions also hit those businessmen who wanted to settle in the West.
For example, the founders of Alfa Bank Mikhail Fridman and Piotr Aven in 2013. Founded a private investment company “LetterOne” in London. For Mr. Fridman, doing business and living in London meant he was finally on the world stage, his former partner says.
“Fridman always disliked Russia. He couldn’t bear to live there. He wanted to escape and move to the West, at the first opportunity to develop business there,” revealed a source for the Financial Times.
A newspaper article recounts how Mr. Friedman attempted to negotiate with the United States Chargé d’Affaires by phone after the war broke out. in Ukraine Christine Quinn. The billionaire offered to donate part of his wealth to Ukraine and hoped to avoid US sanctions in return. According to Financial Times sources, the conversation quickly turned tense, with Mr Fridman shouting: “You want to take all my money away.”
Quinn said the call was over and hung up. M. Fridman himself denies both the conversation and the fact of trying to avoid sanctions.
Aleksei Kuzmichev, a partner at LetterOne, a company founded by Mr Aveno and Ms Fridman, was on holiday at a ski resort in Italy when the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on him. The businessman remained in the country without the opportunity to reunite with his family living in France. But he didn’t want to return to Russia either.
In total, at least 21 Russian businessmen have sued the EU due to the imposed sanctions. Some of them admit that these efforts may not be enough.
Some businessmen would like to give part of their assets to Ukraine in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Several have already approached Kyiv with such an offer, sources told the Financial Times, with one interviewee saying that given the opportunity, “everyone to one” would take the option, as Russian businessmen were left with no other choice.
V. Putin can offer them something only in the future, but businessmen would like to recover the lost money right now.
True, such a proposal is viewed with skepticism in Ukraine: according to a person close to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky would agree to nationalize a part of M. Fridman’s assets only if the businessman directly denounces V. Putin, speaks decisively against the war and tears up his Russian passport.
M. Fridman denies that he discussed the issue of acquiring Ukrainian citizenship with Kyiv.
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