Since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, 20 Russian billionaires have been sanctioned by the EU, US, UK, Switzerland, or Canada. But for every Russian oligarch who has been targeted by Western sanctions, there's another who has slipped under the radar, and who is still free to largely go about their business abroad without any constraints.
Half of Russia’s 20 richest people have not been sanctioned over its war in Ukraine, leaving a group of super-rich, powerful billionaires free to operate around the world without legal restriction.
As we have previously reported, Russian oligarchs with a combined net worth of about $200 billion have been sanctioned. But according to Bloomberg, the patchwork pattern of cross-border penalties that has spared many Russians with "business interests in key global markets." The UK has sanctioned 10 of the richest billionaires and the EU nine. By contrast, the US has sanctioned just four. And while three men feature on all three lists, four of Russia’s five richest men haven't been sanctioned anywhere.
Energy executive Leonid Mikhelson, steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin and Vagit Alekperov, chairman of oil giant Lukoil are among the other richest Russians who have not been sanctioned. All own significant holdings of publicly traded companies operating in Russia’s highly politicized business environment, according to Bloomberg.
The most notable member of this group is Russia's richest man, Vladimir Potanin. A metals magnate who was worth $30 billion on Feb. 18, the final day from which data are available.
Moving beyond Russia, western sanctions impact hundreds of people worldwide, with the UK leading the US and EU in terms of the number of sanctioned individuals. Meanwhile, fewer than 300 people face sanctions from the US, UK and Europe.
And here's a rundown of the richest unsanctioned Russians ranked in terms of net worth.
While Russia's incursion into Ukraine inspired the west to "supercharge" their sanctions regimes, the fact is that most of those targeted were already facing some level of sanctions before the war began.
That means most of those who have been sanctioned in recent weeks have already had years to develop strategies to blunt the impact of sanctions. For example, after being targeted by sanctions, steel baron Alexey Mordashov transferred his majority stake in gold miner Nordgold to his wife, Marina. Most oligarchs have real estate ownership in relatives’ names or have assets registered in tax havens like the British Virgin Islands or the Isle of Man. It's a strategy that has also purportedly been used by President Putin himself.