- Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman told CBS he doesn’t have any way to reach Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Fridman said he learned about sanctions against him when he was watching TV.
- The billionaire, who lives in the UK, said he can’t access his money because his ATM card has been blocked.
Oligarch Mikhail Fridman has hit back against sanctions targeting Russian billionaires and said he doesn’t have any way to deliver messages to the country’s president, Vladimir Putin.
“Sanction against us [is] unfair, useless. For what? What did we do wrongly, except for doing business in Russia?” Fridman told CBS correspondent Seth Doane in an interview aired on Sunday.
Russia, as well as many of its billionaire businessmen and officials, has been hit with sweeping sanctions since the country’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Fridman has been sanctioned by the UK — where he lives — and the European Union. He told CBS he learned about sanctions against him “from TV.”
“What about presumption of innocence, things like that? That’s just decision of unknown bureaucrats who decided that I am guilty by definition, because I’m Russian oligarch, just to feed public demand to punish someone,” Fridman told CBS in a separate segment that aired as part of the Sunday interview.
Fridman also disputed the notion that businessman close to Putin are able to influence or reach the president.
“So, first of all, you should understand that power distance between Mr. Putin and everybody around him is huge,” he told CBS. “Even assuming that I want to deliver any messages, I don’t have any channels to do that.”
He added that it was a “very typical and inappropriate myth” that successful businessmen are close to the Kremlin.
“Majority of Russian private businesspeople do not have any personal ties with Mr. Putin,” Fridman told CBS.
Fridman told the broadcaster he understood why people do not have much sympathy for oligarchs amid the war. Earlier this month, he told Bloomberg the sanctions were making his life difficult and that he didn’t know how to live. In the CBS interview, he said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a “very brave and strong person” and referred to Ukraine as an “independent country.”
He has also spoken out against the war, telling employees of private equity firm LetterOne in a letter before he was sanctioned that “war can never be the answer.” Fridman has since stepped down from the board of LetterOne, which he cofounded.
But Fridman also acknowledged it would be difficult to criticize Putin himself.
“I think that right now, in a climate as Russia, is not very tolerant with regards to that,” he told CBS, adding it “looks like” he may be a traitor in Putin’s view.
Mikhail Fridman is one of the richest people in Russia, with a net worth of $10.3 billion, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.