Home Business for Russian oligarchs, Putin is no longer infallible

for Russian oligarchs, Putin is no longer infallible


All Russian oligarchs are no longer behind their president. Regularly presented as members of a devoted caste, the leaders of the largest groups are targeted by sanctions. And several of them, in a very unusual way, have taken a stand for the“special operation” in Ukraine comes to a halt and gives way to a ceasefire.

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These oligarchs emerged more than 30 years ago from the ruins of the Soviet Union. The decay of the state had given rise to privatizations in all sectors: energy, industry, media, banking… The fortunes of these new rich were not called into question by Vladimir Putin when he came to power, in the early 2000s. The new president, however, sought to “clean house”, by demanding the support and alignment of business leaders with his policy.

A call for the end of “state capitalism”

Since then, none of these great billionaires had wanted to cross the red line which consists in questioning the choices of the president. But four days after the start of the war, some oligarchs are pleading for an end to the fighting. This is the case of Oleg Deripaska, who called for the start of talks “as soon as possible”adding that peace was “very important”. The leader even demanded, via Telegram messaging, the end of the “state capitalism” in Russia and indicated to expect, on behalf of the government, “clear clarifications and comments on economic policy for the next three months”.

Oleg Deripaska was 25 when, in 1993, having just graduated from Moscow State University, he teamed up with other physics students to trade in metals: bought at low prices on the Russian market, these are resold abroad at much higher prices. The profits are invested in the Sayanogorsk aluminum plant in eastern Siberia, which Oleg Deripaska took over in 1994.

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This plant and those that will follow will become the core of a vertically integrated group, Basic Element and present in several sectors: the company Rusal in aluminum, the manufacturing industry such as the car manufacturer GAZ, but also financial services, agriculture, construction and aviation. The companies of Oleg Deripaska, one of the fifty richest men in the country, had for example largely contributed to the construction of the infrastructures of the Winter Olympics of Sochi, in 2014.

The Ukrainian origins of Mikhail Fridman

Four years older than Oleg Deripaska, Mikhail Fridman co-founded, in 1988, Alfa-Photo, a company that imports photographic chemicals. The beginnings of a group that diversified the following year. Then, in 1991, he created Alfa Bank, which would become the largest private bank in the country. The Alfa Group has stakes in telecommunications, retail.

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A time leader of TNK, a former state oil company associated in a joint venture with BP, Mikhail Fridman founded the investment company LetterOne in Luxembourg in 2013. “I am convinced that war can never be the answer”, said on Sunday, Mikhail Fridman, whose family has Ukrainian origins. “This crisis will cost lives and ravage two sister nations for hundreds of years”while expressing its desire to put an end to this ” bloodshed “.

Personal speeches

“Today, in Ukraine, innocent people are dying every day, it is unthinkable and unacceptable”, added Oleg Tinkov, another billionaire of the same generation. After making his fortune in restaurants and breweries, he created Tinkoff Bank in 2006, a name known to cycling enthusiasts because it has sponsored several professional teams. The leader, who had revealed two years ago to suffer from acute leukemia, called for “spend money on treating people, on research to beat cancer, not on war”.

If these personal statements count, it remains difficult to measure their impact. But they show that in the eyes of the business community, speech is freeing up and Vladimir Putin is no longer considered infallible.

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