London-based Russian Jewish businessman vows to fight EU sanctions

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London-based Russian Jewish businessman vows to fight EU sanctions

Mikhail Fridman hit with European Union restrictions despite being one of the first Russian oligarchs to voice his opposition to the invasion of Ukraine

Mikhail Fridman has vowed to fight EU sanctions
Mikhail Fridman has vowed to fight EU sanctions

A London-based Russian Jewish businessman this week said he will fight “groundless and unfair” sanctions imposed on him by the European Union due to his alleged support of President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Mikhail Fridman, who holds Israeli citizenship, was on Monday named as one of 26 people added to the list of those the EU considers to have “a significant economic role in supporting Putin’s regime.”

The sanctions include an asset freeze, a prohibition from receiving funds from EU bodies and a travel ban preventing him from entering or transiting through EU territory.

Fridman, 57, has been a vocal critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since it was launched, telling employees of his equity firm LetterOne that “war can never be the answer”.

Despite this, the EU added him to the list of those under restrictive measures, which now totals 680 individuals and 53 entities.

Announcing the move the EU said Fridman “Has managed to cultivate strong ties to the administration of Vladimir Putin, and has been referred to as a top Russian financier and enabler of Putin’s inner circle.

The announcement noted that in 2018 Fridman visited Washington DC on an “unofficial mission to convey the Russian government’s message on US sanctions and on counter-sanctions by the Russian Federation.”

“Therefore he actively supported materially or financially and benefited from Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine.”

Voicing his outrage Fridman this week said the sanctions are “groundless and unfair.”

In a joint statement with business partner Pyotr Aven, Fridman said they would “contest the spurious and unfounded basis for the imposition of these sanctions – vigorously and through all means available to them.”

“These are malicious and deliberate falsehoods – pure and simple, the product of historical fantasies and conspiracy theories dreamt up by private individuals with their own agendas,” the businessmen added.

The UK has as-yet not sanctioned Fridman, and he said he hoped this would not happen.

In the letter to employees, Fridman, the co-founder and trustee of the Genesis Philanthropy Group, underlined the significance of his Ukrainian roots.

“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 wrote.

“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.”

The letter was first reported by the Financial Times.

It made him the first Russian businessman to speak out against the invasion.

He was later joined in criticising the military action by Oleg Deripaska.

Roman Abramovich, another Russian businessman who also has extensive business interests, has not commented directly on the conflict but is understood to be in Belarus attempting to broker a ceasefire.

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