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Sanctioned Russian billionaires continue to profit despite restrictions

Russian billionaires, many with close ties to Putin, have received $11.3 billion in dividends as companies resume payouts amid Russia’s economic rebound. Top earners include sanctioned individuals who have found ways to circumvent restrictions and redirect exports.
sanctioned russian billionaires continue profit despite restrictions building lukoil headquarters moscow processed vsco wwf preset
Building of Lukoil headquarters in Moscow. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Sanctioned Russian billionaires continue to profit despite restrictions

Bloomberg reports that Russian tycoons have received billions of dollars in dividends as their companies resumed or boosted payouts amid easing economic uncertainty over the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. According to data compiled by Bloomberg from publicly disclosed information, at least a dozen business people earned over 1 trillion rubles ($11.3 billion) in dividends for 2023 and the first quarter of this year.

Many of these billionaires have close links to President Vladimir Putin and include some who’ve been sanctioned over the war. Vagit Alekperov, key shareholder and former president of oil giant Lukoil PJSC, topped the list with about 186 billion rubles in dividends. Alexey Mordashov of Severstal PJSC and Vladimir Lisin of Novolipetsk Steel PJSC followed with 148 billion and 121 billion rubles respectively.

The list includes Putin’s billionaire ally Gennady Timchenko and Tatyana Litvinenko, who received a stake in PhosAgro PJSC before her husband Vladimir was sanctioned by the US in 2023.

The US and its allies imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in response to the February 2022 invasion, prompting many companies to pause dividend payouts. However, these fears haven’t been borne out as Russia’s economy gradually adjusted to the new conditions and exporters found alternative markets.

Russia’s economy grew 5.4% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Many commodities exporters have resumed dividend payments after reshaping their businesses and re-routing sales toward markets in China, India, and other Global South nations that haven’t implemented sanctions.

The US stepped up threats of secondary sanctions on banks in countries that Russia regards as “friendly,” and sanctions on the Moscow Exchange last month forced it to halt trading in dollars and euros.

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