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Oligarchs ‘fear Putin more than losing their billions’

Russian oligarchs are more fearful of retribution by Russian President Vladimir Putin than they are of losing their billions, Russian opposition leader and formerly imprisoned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky said in an interview.

Khodorkovsky said that sanctioned oligarchs like Zurich-based oil tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, Rusal aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska, Severstal owner Alexei Mordashov, US-based media mogul Len Blavatnik and London-based Alfa Bank founder Mikhail Fridman all fear Putin’s ability to exact deadly revenge than reinvest their ill-gotten – and now mostly frozen – assets into Ukrainian private companies.

“I think [oligarchs] are more afraid of Putin than sanctions,” Khodorkovsky said. “If it’s sanctions, it is only money. If it is Putin, it’s their lives.”

The Group of Seven, under the leadership of Italy, is currently discussing the proposal to issue up to US$300 billion in bonds backed by frozen Russian central-bank assets to fund Ukraine’s war effort and economic recovery.

Political leaders in the G7 and the European Union are also discussing the transfer of Russian oligarchs’ frozen assets to a Ukrainian private-sector investment fund to be managed by the troika of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the US International Development Finance Corp (DFC).

The decision by Putin to allow the death of corruption crusader and domestic political foe Alexei Navalny in his Arctic gulag on Friday only confirms Khodorkovsky’s point that Putin’s vindictiveness – against real or perceived enemies – has no limits.

Putin originally made Khodorkovsky the poster child of what will happen to any oligarch who dared mount any political challenge to the