- Sanctioned Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman said oligarchs are focused on business, not power.
- Many Russian oligarchs have been hit with sweeping sanctions over the Ukraine war.
- Fridman has slammed sanctions against individuals as being unfair and ineffective.
Sanctioned billionaire Mikhail Fridman said Russian oligarchs have no sway over Russian President Vladimir Putin, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on Tuesday.
“There is no oligarchs’ club. We are all different people,” he told El Pais. “We were exclusively focused on business and never wanted to get close to power.”
Russia, as well as many of its billionaire business executives and officials, has been hit with sweeping sanctions since the country invaded Ukraine last month. Fridman has been sanctioned by the UK — where he lives — and the European Union.
His comments to El Pais echo sentiments he has previously shared. In a CBS interview aired on Sunday, he disputed what he called the “very typical and inappropriate myth” that successful executives were close to the Kremlin.
“Majority of Russian private businesspeople do not have any personal ties with Mr. Putin,” Fridman told CBS. He further described the “power distance” between Putin and those around him as “huge.”
He told the Spanish media outlet it was “idiotic” to think oligarchs can compel Putin to end the Ukraine war — which, the news outlet noted, he avoided calling a war. Instead, Fridman described the war in terms like a “disaster” or “what is happening.”
Fridman told El Pais that private business executives could try to “convey their point of view” to Putin if they had “more freedom to choose.”
But sweeping sanctions mean that those targeted “will have to return to Russia, where they will have no option other than being absolutely loyal, and where they will continue to work because they are energetic, brilliant and talented individuals, and they will create businesses and jobs,” said Fridman, per El Pais.
Fridman has been outspoken against sanctions levied against private business executives, slamming the restrictions in various interviews.
“Sanction against us: unfair, useless. For what? What did we do wrongly, except for doing business in Russia?” he told CBS.