Russian oligarch calls for end to war but stops short of Putin criticism

Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman has called for an end to the bloodshed in Ukraine, while acknowledging that criticising the government could be dangerous for him.

He criticised the invasion of Russia’s neighbour, but made clear that he did not have the ability to call on Russian president Vladimir Putin to end the conflict.

Responding to a question from Sky News at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Mr Fridman said: “I’m also worried about the country. But first of all, I’m worried about people who are working for us. We have a lot of very prominent people, in top management generally.”

He added: “Hundreds of thousands of people are working for us in Russia. And you know, I don’t want to make any comments which potentially could increase their risk because I’m right now here.”

Mikhail Fridman and business partner Petr Aven were named in a list of oligarchs sanctioned by Brussels on Monday over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


The pair have a combined net worth of more than $15bn – Mr Fridman founded Alfa-Bank, one of Russia’s largest lenders, while Mr Aven is a fellow shareholder.

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In a press release, they said they were “profoundly shocked” by the EU’s claims that they are close confidants of Mr Putin, and said that they would contest “the demonstrably false and defamatory allegations”.

In a separate letter sent to employees last Friday, Mr Fridman described the “incredibly difficult few days” watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Like me, many of you are directly affected by this conflict and all are watching with deep concern,” he wrote to staff at LetterOne, the billionaire’s investment vehicle.

But he stopped short of directly naming or criticising Mr Putin, instead saying he would not make any political statements.

Outlining their reasons for imposing sanctions, EU officials described Mr Fridman, who bought Athlone House in North London for $90m in 2016, as “a top Russian financier and enabler of Putin’s inner circle”.

Read more on the Ukraine invasion:‘Hit list’ of Russian oligarchs drawn up as Putin’s allies warned over mansions and private jetsSatellite images show 40-mile convoy of Russian military vehicles closing in on Kyiv‘We were told they would welcome us’: Russian soldier moments before his death in Ukraine

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The explosion is believed to be the result of a missile attack and a projectile is briefly visible before the blast.

They added that he “actively supported materially or financially and benefited from Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine”.

Meanwhile, Mr Aven was described as “one of Vladimir Putin’s closest oligarchs”, and an unofficial emissary of the president.

In their statement, Mr Fridman and Mr Aven said they would “contest the spurious and unfounded basis for the imposition of these sanctions – vigorously and through all means available to them – in an attempt to avoid unwarranted and unnecessary damage”.

“These are malicious and deliberate lies – pure and simple, the product of historical fantasies and conspiracy theories dreamt up by individuals with their own agendas,” the statement added.

Also sanctioned yesterday were Igor Sechin and Nikolai Tokarev, the respective chief executives of oil companies Rosneft and Transneft, and financier Alisher Usmanov, a former owner of Arsenal football club who is now linked to Everton via his long-time business partner Farhad Moshiri, who owns the team.