Some Russian Oligarchs Are Speaking Out Against Vladimir Putin – Reports suggest that some of Russia’s most elite families and oligarchs are beginning to express their concern about President Vladimir Putin’s military offensive in Ukraine, signaling a divide in the country that was nowhere near as pronounced during the 2014 annexation of Ukraine.
Mikhail Fridman, the founder of Alfa Bank, the biggest private bank in Russia, was the first to indicate his concern about the war in Ukraine. In a memo to his staff at LetterOne, a private equity firm that he owns in London, England, Fridman said that he was “convinced” that war in Ukraine “can never be the answer.”
“I was born in Western Ukraine and lived there until I was 17. My parents are Ukrainian citizens and live in Lviv, my favourite city,” he told staff. “But I have also spent much of my life as a citizen of Russia, building and growing businesses. I am deeply attached to Ukrainian and Russian peoples and see the current conflict as a tragedy for them both.”
Fridman isn’t the only one, either.
The London Evening Standard on Monday published a statement from Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian-born owner of the newspaper, on the front page. Lebedev pleaded with Putin to end the war.
“President Putin, please stop this war,” the headline read. The newspaper also showed an image of a young girl who was killed by Russian bombs in Ukraine.
“As a Russian citizen, I plead with you to stop Russians killing their Ukrainian brothers and sisters,” he added.
Lebedev’s comments are significant not just because of his wealth, but because he is the son of former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev.
The two Russian businessmen were also joined by metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska and banker Oleg Tinkov in their criticism of Putin’s war campaign. On Monday, Tinkob posted a message to his Instagram page, stating that the war was unacceptable.
“Innocent people are dying in Ukraine now, every day, this is unthinkable and acceptable,” he wrote.
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Deripaska’s comments, however, are particularly notable as he has long been considered a close ally to the Russian president. On his Telegram channel – a social media-style feed powered by encrypted messaging service Telegram – Deripaska noted that “peace is very important” and that peace talks to end the violence should start “as soon as possible.”
So far, the condemnation of Putin’s actions from the wealthy elite in his country have not encouraged him to scale back his military action in Ukraine – but the pressure could well intensify as Russian elites are hit harder and harder by economic sanctions placed on them by the United States and Europe.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.