From the Forbes list of the richest men in the world to the blacklists of the west. These are the Russian oligarchs, the survivors, heirs and collateral millionaires of those who became rich thanks to the Kremlin in the shady privatisation process following the death of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. The elite of the country, close to the circle of power, are facing unprecedented harassment through sanctions which are jeopardising their businesses. They can’t set foot on foreign soil, their assets abroad have been blocked and their yachts, private jets and mansions are about to be seized. This, and the rouble plummeting in value, has led several magnates to disassociate themselves from the official discourse of the Kremlin.
They don’t attack Vladimir Putin directly, maybe through the survival instinct, but the calls for the war to stop are crystal clear. It is a big deal, when the regime punishes those who talk of ‘war’ or ‘invasion’. One of these names is Mijaíl Fridman, the man behind the DIA supermarket chain, who has asked for the bloodshed to stop. “This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been sisters for hundreds of years,” he said.
Alexei Mordashov, believed to be the richest man in Russia with an astronomical fortune of 25.7 billion euros, has also broken rank. The owner of the steel and mining giant Seversta and the globe’s biggest tour operator Tui, has described the situation in Ukraine as “a tragedy for two brotherly peoples” and said “We have to do everything necessary to find a way out of this conflict and stop the bloodshed”.
Another is former president Boris Yeltsin’s son-in-law, Oleg Deripaska, who has companies in the aluminium sector, including Rusal. “Peace is very important! Negotiations must start ASAP”, he posted on the social network Telegram on Monday before the meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Belarus. On the same day he asked for “a change to economic policy, end all this State capitalism”.
And Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian-British media magnate and the son of a former KGB member, used the front page of one of his newspapers, the Evening Standard, for his message: “President Putin, please stop this war”, he said, together with a photo of medics trying to save a six-year-old girl who died after one of the attacks.
The children of the elite are being even more direct, rejecting the invasion and expressing their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. They include Elizaveta Peskova, 24, daughter of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who posted ‘No to the war’ on Instagram, although she apparently deleted it less than an hour later without giving a reason.
The same phrase, with the Ukraine flag, was posted on Twitter by Maria Yumasheva, daughter of government adviser Valentin Yumashev, while Sofia Abramovich, whose father is Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, told her 50,000 followers that “the biggest and most successful lie out of the Kremlin propaganda is that most Russians are with Putin”.
Ksenia Sobciak, the daughter of the late Anatoly Sobciak, Putin’s political mentor, also said that Russians would have to pay for this nonsense “for many years to come”.