Russian billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska have become two of the country’s first businessmen to speak out against Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Fridman, who is one of Russia’s richest men, controls private equity firm LetterOne and was one of the founders of Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private bank. In a letter to his employees, he called for an end to the “bloodshed”.
Ukrainian-born Fridman emailed LetterOne staff, first reported by the Financial Times, in which he wrote that “war can never be the answer.”
Describing his Ukrainian roots in Lviv, where his parents still live, he wrote: “I have also spent a large part of my life as a Russian citizen, creating and developing businesses. I am deeply attached to the Ukrainian and Russian peoples and consider the current conflict a tragedy for both of them.
Deripaska called for peace talks to begin “as soon as possible” in a message on the Telegram messaging app.
“Peace is very important,” wrote Deripaska, who founded Russian aluminum giant Rusal, in which he still has a stake through shares in its London-listed parent company EN+ Group.
Deripaska, who declared as recently as February 21 that there would be no war in Ukraine, has been on the US sanctions list since 2018 for his alleged ties to the Russian government, which he sued in justice to challenge.
Fridman was ranked as the 128th richest person in the world in 2021, according to Forbes’ Global Billionaires List.
The 57-year-old told staff in his letter that he generally avoids making political statements.
“I am a businessman with responsibilities to my thousands of employees in Russia and Ukraine. However, I am convinced that war can never be the answer. This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations that have been brothers for hundreds of years,” he wrote.
“While a solution seems awfully distant, I can only join those whose burning desire is for the bloodshed to stop.”
Fridman’s LetterOne has assets in its L1 retail unit, including UK health food retailer Holland & Barrett, as well as Spanish supermarket chain DIA and mobile phone service provider Turkcell, which has customers in Turkey. , Ukraine, Belarus and Cyprus.
Fridman and Deripaska join a small group of prominent Russians – including popular actors, musicians and TV presenters – who have called on President Vladimir Putin to halt the military operation in Ukraine, though many Russian oligarchs have remained silent .
The intervention could begin to pressure Moscow’s business and financial elite to voice their opposition to Putin’s invasion.
The country’s wealthiest people are set to face major economic upheaval as sanctions on Russia mount, including the expulsion of several Russian banks from the Swift global banking payment system, designed to disconnect the country from finance international.