Unfortunate Fat Cats of Russia

Former Russian tycoons and powers-that-be show themselves as sad little men

Mikhail Fridman, a Russian 'oligarch' (tycoon), is making inquiries with the Ukrainian government on the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship and transferring his assets into their jurisdiction. Thus, the sanctioned native of the city of Lviv, who has Russian and Israeli citizenships, is seeking atonement and a new opportunity to use the good things he had "toiled" to earn in Russia. Precedents show, however, that Fridman, just like all of his friends in (dire) need, whose billions never helped them become part of the 'world elites' club', can humiliate himself to no end and still, they will get stripped of all they possess. Trying to save their fortunes, they are so demeaning and foolish that even in Russia, it is failed to understand how the people of such a modest level could have been referred to as elite.

Ukraine's head of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention, Aleksandr Novikov, was the one who revealed Fridman's desire to acquire Ukrainian citizenship and legalise his assets in Ukraine. Novikov also noted that such a scenario is possible for 'other Russian tycoons of Ukrainian descent, such as Viktor Vekselberg'. A few days later, Russia's Alfa Group denied Novikov's statement. Unnamed sources in the holding told RBC that Mikhail Fridman, a co-founder of Alfa Group, was not negotiating for this. However, we tend to trust a high-ranking official in democratic Ukraine more than an anonymous speaker from a Russian company that could be risking prosecution by Russian authorities.

Before Russia's military operation in Ukraine, Mikhail Fridman ranked among Russia's wealthiest men and, at the same time, the richest resident in London, worth an estimated 15.5 billion dollars. He has earned his wealth in Russia, creating a vast holding complete with interests and assets in such sectors as oil, metals, banking, insurance, retail, telecoms, and more. In 2013, Fridman sold his share in TNK-BP, a joint Russian and British company, and joined his oligarch partners to create LetterOne, a Luxembourg-based investor business primarily investing in non-Russian assets. In addition to his business activities, Fridman became a London resident in 2015 and got more actively involved in philanthropy. He co-founded the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC), the country's most prominent secular Jewish organisation. However, charity and commerce weren’t enough for him, so he cast himself as a spiritual guru. Wealthy entrepreneurs and the general public would spend hours at major RJC events, heeding to pompous verbosities such as the profusely trite lecture entitled 'Russian Jewish Identity', delivered by him in 2014.

At any rate, Fridman and his friends in close contact with America's 'Atlantic Council' and other such organisations lost everything in February-March 2022, when Europe and the UK imposed sanctions upon them, stripping them of all ability to use their assets. They became restricted transport-wise and had to beg to supervise agencies for little bundles of money to cover their everyday needs, according to Fridman's estimates at roughly 2,500 pounds per month. His partner Petr Aven complained that he couldn't afford a driver.

The oligarchs were accused of supporting Vladimir Putin's regime, getting state contracts and even secretly advising Russia's President. After that, he began to give self-humiliating interviews to Western media, baffled and bewildered by the sanctions against him and his partners. "We sincerely believed we are such good friends of the Western world that we couldn't be punished", he told Bloomberg in mid-March

Despite all debasement, the oligarchs will hardly be able to save their fortune. The Brits and Ukrainians look like they are hoodwinking the fear-stricken fat cats while laughing at them. In London, it was hinted to Fridman and Aven that, to get the arrest lifted off their assets, they had better put some distance between themselves and Russia and 'donate to Ukraine'. The people in business hurriedly obeyed and donated 150 million dollars, and Jewish organisations rewarded them by asking the authorities to stop punishing the donators. However, the Brits 'unfroze' the exact sum of 150 million euros, while Fridman's and Aven's accounts stayed blocked. They opened a criminal case against the latter and confiscated his art collection. Now, to a barrage of mocking comments from Ukraine, Fridman, the spiritual guru, is running for Ukrainian citizenship for himself and the assets he hopes to save. Here is what Ukrainian official Novikov, who had leaked that much, had to say to Forbes: "It is a tax, beneficial for Ukraine. Taking money off Russian oligarchs and using it to destroy Putin's regime is probably the best Ukraine can do, given the situation". Meanwhile, Fridman, the Jewish intellectual guru, seems undisturbed by an openly Nazi ideology professed by the Ukrainian army's best units or by the worshipping of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators who in 1941 took part in the brutal massacre of the oligarch's native Lviv's Jewish population.

The fat cat's lack of principle is impressive, but even more so is the foolishness. An attempt to buy off and earn forgiveness by transferring funds to Ukraine failed. Now he wants to re-register his property in the country, whose parts have already been ceded to Russia and from which Moscow is gradually taking over more and more territories. It is incredible how people who the West is now walking all over built their fortune and were considered elites in Russia for decades.

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