Russian Tycoon criticized Putin’s war. Retaliation was swift.

February 17, 2004, Oleg Tinkov in Moscow, known as the Russian

February 17, 2004, Oleg Tinkov in Moscow, known as the Russian “Beer Oligarch”. (Sergey Kiblin / New York Times)

Oleg Y. Tinkoff, worth more than $ 9 billion in November, was one of Russia’s few homebrew business tycoons after building a fortune outside the energy and minerals industry, which was a playground for Russian thief politics. Famous as.

Then last month, the founder of Tinkoff, one of Russia’s largest banks, criticized the war in Ukraine in an Instagram post. The next day, President Vladimir Putin’s administration contacted his executives and threatened to nationalize his bank if he did not break his relationship with him, he said. Last week he sold his 35% stake to the Russian mining billionaire, what he describes as a “desperate sale, fire sale” forced by the Kremlin.

“I couldn’t discuss the price,” Tinkoff said. “It was like a hostage — you take what you were offered. I couldn’t negotiate.”

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Tinkoff, 54, spoke to the New York Times on Sunday in a place he didn’t reveal in his first interview since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. He said he hired a bodyguard after a friend with Russian security contacts said he should be afraid of his life and probably “Kremlin will kill me” while surviving leukemia. Said.

It was a quick and unpleasant fateful shift for many years of millionaires who had avoided rebelling against Putin for years while describing themselves as independent of the Kremlin. His downfall highlights the consequences faced by the Russian elite who dare to cross the president, and according to Tinkoff, business leaders worried about the impact of war on their lifestyles and their lifestyles. A wallet that helps explain why there was little silence from.

Indeed, Tinkoff claimed that many of his acquaintances of the business and government elite personally told him that he agreed, “but they are all afraid.”

In an interview, Tinkoff spoke more strongly against the war than any other major Russian business leader.

“I realized that Russia as a country no longer exists,” said Tinkoff, predicting Putin to be in power for a long time. “I believed the Putin administration was bad, but of course I didn’t expect it to be such a catastrophic scale.”

The Kremlin did not respond to requests for comment.

Tinkoff, a bank founded by Tinkoff in 2006, denied characterizing his events and stated that “there was no threat of any kind to the bank’s leadership.” The bank, which announced last Thursday that Tinkoff had sold all of its stake to a company run by mining mogul Vladimir Putinin near Putin, appeared to be moving away from its founders.

“Oleg hasn’t stayed in Moscow for many years, hasn’t participated in the company’s life, and wasn’t involved in any issues,” Tinkoff said in a statement.

Tinkoff also ran into a problem in the west. Last year he agreed to pay $ 507 million to resolve a tax evasion case in the United States. In March, the UK included him on the list of sanctions against the Russian business elite.

“These oligarchs, businesses and hired thugs are involved in the killings of innocent civilians, and they are right to pay the price,” said then Foreign Minister Liz Truss.

Nonetheless, Tinkov is widely seen as a rare Russian business pioneer, modeling his heretical capitalism at Richard Branson and one of the world’s most sophisticated online banks from irreverent brewers. Transformed into a founder. He sometimes criticized Putin, saying he had never set foot in the Kremlin.

But unlike Russian tycoons who broke up with Putin a few years ago and are now in exile, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and high-tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov said at least April 19th. Until then found a way to co-exist with Khodorin and earn billions of dollars.

It was then that Tinkoff published an emotional anti-war post on Instagram, calling the aggression “crazy” and ridiculing the Russian army. Nepotism, suppleness, obedience? “

Pre-war Russians posted photos of shredded Tinkoff debit cards on social media. Vladimir Putin, a prominent state television host, made a fuss about him, proclaiming that “your conscience is rotten.”

Tinkoff was already outside Russia at that time and set out in 2019 to receive treatment for leukemia. He later resigned and transferred control of Tinkoff, but he held a 35% stake in the company. It was worth more than $ 20 billion on the London Stock Exchange last year.

The day after the April 19th post, Tinkoff told them on Sunday that the Kremlin contacted senior bank executives and that their relationship with their founders is now a major issue.

“They said:” Your shareholder’s statement is not welcomed, and if he doesn’t sell it, the owner doesn’t change, and you don’t change the name, we own your bank. “I will do it,” Tinkoff said, citing Tinkoff’s sources, he refused to identify.

On April 22, Tinkoff announced that it would change its name this year. This is a step that claims to have been planned for a long time. Behind the scenes, Tinkoff says he was scrambling to sell his shares, which had already been devalued by Western sanctions on Russia’s financial system.

Tinkoff said he was grateful to mining mogul Potanin for allowing him to recover at least some money from the company. He couldn’t disclose the price, but said he sold at 3% of what he believed was the true value of his stock.

“They made me sell it for my remarks,” Tinkoff said. “I sold it for Kopek.”

“As long as Putin is alive, I don’t think anything will change,” Tinkoff said.

“I don’t believe in Russia’s future,” he said. “Most importantly, you’re not ready to associate your brand with your name for a country that is attacking your neighbors for no reason.”

Tinkoff is concerned that his foundation, which is dedicated to improving blood cancer treatment in Russia, could also be a victim of his financial problems.

He said the British government hoped to “correct this mistake” in the end, but denied saying it in hopes of lifting British sanctions on him.

He said his illness (currently suffering from graft-versus-host disease, a complication of stem cell transplantation) may have encouraged him to speak more than other Russian business leaders and senior officials. rice field. He claimed that members of the elite were “shocked” about the war and called him numerous to provide support.

“They understand that they are connected to the West, they are part of the global market, etc.,” Tinkoff said. “They are being transformed into Iran fast and fast. But they don’t like it. They want their kids to spend their summer vacation in Sardinia.”

Tinkoff said that no one in the Kremlin had contacted him directly, but in addition to the pressure on his company, he could be in physical danger and contacted security services. He said he heard from a friend who has it.

“They said to me:’A decision was made about you,'” he said. “That’s what I don’t know, in addition to what they’re trying to kill me. I don’t rule it out.”

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