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The fortunes of Russia’s super-rich have tumbled by $32 billion this year, with the escalating conflict in Ukraine poised to make that wealth destruction much larger.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday unleashed sanctions targeting Russia’s sale of sovereign debt abroad and the country’s elites, and said he is sending an unspecified number of additional troops to the Baltic in a move to defend Nato countries.
Gennady Timchenko heads the list of Russian billionaires who have seen their fortunes drop, with almost a third of his wealth disappearing this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a listing of the world’s 500 richest people.
The son of a Soviet military officer, Mr Timchenko, 69, who met and befriended Russian President Vladimir Putin during the early 1990s, now has a fortune of about $16bn, with the bulk of his wealth derived from a stake in Russian gas producer Novatek, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index.
Fellow Novatek shareholder Leonid Mikhelson’s fortune has tumbled $6.2bn this year, while Lukoil chairman Vagit Alekperov’s net worth has declined by about $3.5bn in the same period. The energy company’s stock has slid by about 17 per cent.
The country’s 23 billionaires currently have a cumulative net worth of $343bn, according to the wealth list, down from $375bn at the end of 2021.
Markets slumped further this week after Mr Putin recognised two separatist republics in Ukraine, leading Germany to suspend the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia and the UK to impose sanctions on five of the country’s banks and three of its wealthy individuals, including Mr Timchenko.
Also on the UK’s sanctions list are Boris Rotenberg, 65, and his nephew, Igor, 48, whose families made their fortune through gas-pipeline construction company Stroygazmontazh.
Igor’s father, Arkady, one of Mr Putin’s former judo sparring partners, sold the pipeline company in 2019 for about $1.3bn. He purchased a minority stake from his younger brother, Boris, five years earlier when both siblings and Mr Timchenko were hit with US sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Additionally, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that he would not meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week because it “does not make sense” given Russia’s moves in Ukraine.