An idea that Mikhail Fridman regretted
How did this happen? Last week became knownthat Russian oppositionists have been asking Western officials since last autumn to lift sanctions, in particular against the leadership of the Alpha Group: Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, German Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev. This consortium owns Russia’s largest retailer and non-state bank.
Signature against whiskey
This news resonated widely only after the next stage of the war between Navalny’s supporters and Alexey Venediktov, the former editor-in-chief of the largest liberal radio station Echo of Moscow, which was shut down after the outbreak of the war. They have been arguing among themselves for a long time, accusing each other of who is the Kremlin’s biggest agent, and one day the FBK revealed an investigation that showed that Venediktov was getting hundreds of millions of rubles from Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin for a magazine about Moscow neighborhoods. Venediktov decided to take revenge, publishing a letter to European officials signed by the opposition in defense of Alpha’s leadership.
First, the head of FBK Leonid Volkov decidedthat his signature on the list was Vphotoshoplen. However, quickly It revealedthat the signatures are still genuine: Friedman’s lawyers collected them separately from each signer, but then compiled them into a single table for convenience. And here is the last episode of this story – Volkov decidedthat his own (separate) letter in defense of Alfa’s leadership was a mistake and an abuse of power, so he decided to “take a break” as chairman of the board of FBK, Russia’s most famous and significant opposition force.
The situation with the letter from oppositionists and journalists to the EU leadership asking them to lift the sanctions imposed on the Alfa leadership is about as bad as it gets. drinking former editor-in-chief of “Echoes of Moscow” Alexei Venediktov and other figures whiskey with the deputy head of the Presidential Administration Alexei Gromov during the 2011 protests. A year after the start of the protests, it turned out that at the height of the rallies for fair elections that broke out because of the rigged elections to the State Duma and after the “castling” of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Venediktov, together with the organizers of these rallies secretly met with the Moscow authorities, and also with Gromov, a representative of the Kremlin, and coordinated protest actions with them. And they celebrated those deals while drinking whiskey. This event caused a scandal in the Russian opposition environment, many activists accused Venediktov and others of colluding with the authorities and betraying the interests of civil society.
Another dubious point in the letters defending the Alfa leadership is the claim that the Alfa leadership is white, fluffy and has never seen Putin in their lives. It clearly states that the business of Friedman and his associates cannot be considered close to the Russian authorities, Putin or anyone else at the highest levels of power in Russia.
This is an interesting statement if we remember, for example, that in 2013 Fridman and his partners from Alfa He get $27.7 billion from state-owned Rosneft for shares in a joint business with BP. By the way, Rosneft at that moment was already headed by Igor Sechin, who himself is close to Putin and does not like to share money. This deal gives a good idea of Friedman’s team’s lobbying capabilities. Recall that in early 2011, British BP announcedwhich agreed with Rosneft on the exchange of shares and joint development of the Arctic shelf. However, by that time, BP already had another subsidiary in Russia, where 50% was owned by Russian shareholders, among whom was the Alfa Group. Through the Stockholm arbitration, these shareholders actually blocked the creation of an alliance between BP and Rosneft and as a result obtained a substantial compensation from Rosneft.
Could such a deal be concluded without Putin’s personal approval? Of course not, and Sechin in an interview with the Financial Times he confessedwhich was the first to receive Putin’s approval.
It is also impossible not to mention that the functions of communicating with the country’s top management between Fridman and Aven were divided in such a way that Fridman used to answer for Medvedevand Aven the rest of the time – for Putin. In general, protecting parole Oleg Tinkov from sanctions is one thing, but with these comrades, the situation is more complicated.
Several conclusions can be drawn from this story. On the one hand, Volkov admitted his mistakes and is ready to take responsibility for them – this is worthy of respect. On the other hand, this behind-the-scenes story continues to cause great damage to FBK’s reputation. And it revives suspicions about the secret cooperation of the FBK with Alpha, which Navalny’s associates officially deny.
The question of what to do with personal sanctions against members of the Russian elite remains unanswered. Volkov is right in saying that so far the personal sanctions have only united oligarchs, state managers and officials around Putin more closely. This means that such sanctions are ineffective.
Surprising and somehow funny: it turned out that the first known attempts to cooperate with the opposition of Russian billionaires associated with the power over sanctions resulted in a huge opposition brawl.
Mikhail Fridman probably already regretted his idea.