Sanctions against Russia’s oligarchs, according to one of the country’s wealthiest individuals, would have no effect on Moscow’s choice to invade Ukraine.
At a press conference in London, billionaire banker Mikhail Fridman said the conflict was a tragedy for all sides.
However, he refrained from making direct criticism, stating that personal statements may endanger not only himself, but also his employees and coworkers.
He joins Oleg Deripaska, another businessman, in calling for peace.
The two guys are the most powerful billionaires who have spoken out against Russia’s invasion, which is currently in its sixth day.
On Tuesday, the United Kingdom sanctioned Belarusian military leaders for their participation in “abetting” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Belarus’ military has “aided and assisted the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” according to the Foreign Office, which has also sanctioned several of the country’s state-owned industrial companies.
The sanctions against Belarus are in addition to those imposed by the United Kingdom on Minsk since 2020, when over 100 people and organizations were targeted in response to Belarus’s rigged elections.
Mr Fridman, who was born in Ukraine before the Soviet Union disintegrated, is the creator of Alfa, Russia’s largest private bank, and owns investment group LetterOne, which has broad holdings in oil and retailing.
The measures, which include asset freezes and a travel restriction, were unjustifiable, according to the billionaire, who said he would fight them.
However, he noted that the sanctions would not have the desired impact of reining in the Kremlin in any event.
“You know, because you are a Jew, you might not be in this position or that position, at this university or this employment,” he explained.
“Now, because you are Russian, I’m in a similar scenario here in the West.”
Mr Fridman, who resides in London, and his long-time boyfriend Pyotr Aven were sanctioned by the European Union on Monday.
Mr Fridman was identified as “a key Russian financier and facilitator of Putin’s inner circle” by the EU statement.
Mr. Fridman said the war in Ukraine should be resolved as quickly as possible, but he dodged questions about whether President Vladimir Putin’s actions should be condemned directly.
“Please don’t press me to comment,” he urged, adding that doing so would put “not only my personal safety in jeopardy, but also the safety of my colleagues and employees.”
He claimed that his enterprises employed tens of thousands of people in Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. “It’s a delicate situation. We have hundreds of partners, and I don’t have the authority to put them all in jeopardy.”
In a post on the messaging app Telegram, Mr Deripaska, who established one of Russia’s greatest industrial conglomerates, also begged for peace.