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Fridman and Aven intend to sell Alfa-Bank in order to achieve the lifting of sanctions
Sanctioned oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven plan to sell Russia's largest private bank, Alfa-Bank. This is how they hope to free themselves from Western restrictions. The Financial Times (FT) writes about this, citing four people familiar with the agreement and a detailed description of the terms of the deal.
Their longtime business partner Andrey Kosogov agreed to buy the billionaires' share for $2.3 billion. Fridman and Aven together own more than 45% of Alfa-Bank through the Luxembourg holding company ABH Holdings. Before the start of the war, the book value of Alfa-Bank was $10.6 billion, the FT notes.
Kosogov confirmed to the newspaper that the deal with Fridman and Aven had been agreed upon. He himself did not fall under Western sanctions, he owned the smallest share in the bank compared to other owners.
The parties can close the deal this spring, but first, it must be approved by the Central Bank, the Federal Tax Service, and other regulatory bodies of the Russian Federation. Approval from EU and US sanctions authorities may also be required, the FT notes.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Fridman and Aven on February 28 in response to Russia's outbreak of war in Ukraine. The EU claimed that Aven "benefited from his connections in power" and Friedman "managed to establish strong ties with the administration of Vladimir Putin." At the end of May, businessmen filed lawsuits with the European Court of General Jurisdiction challenging the sanctions.
Ukraine war latest: Russia launches largest missile attack against Ukraine since January
In the early hours of March 9, Russia launched the largest missile attack against Ukraine since early 2023.
Kyiv, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Zhytomyr, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zaporizhzhia, Vinnytsia, Kirovohrad, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv oblasts were all under attack.
"It's been a difficult night," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a morning update.
"The occupiers can only terrorize civilians. That's all they can do. But it won't help them. They won't avoid responsibility for everything they have done," said the president.
According to the Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Russia launched 81 missiles and eight Iranian-made Shahed drones on March 9.
Russia's attack included 28 Х-101/Х-555 missiles; 20 Kalibr cruise missiles; six Kh-22 cruise missiles; eight air-to-surface missiles, including two – Kh-31P and six X-59 missiles; thirteen S-300 surface-to-air missiles, and six modern Kinzhal aero-ballistic missiles.
A new ‘PMC’ from Gazprom
Note: PMCs are illegal in Russia and act on direct orders of the Russian Defence Ministry and intelligence services
According to Russian military propagandist Alexander Kots, units of the new Gazprom ‘PMC’ are already entering the Donetsk region and other regions occupied by Russia. “In Donetsk, the military people are talking about PMC Gazpromneft. People are interested in salaries, which, according to rumors, are twice as high as in Wagner - from 400 thousand rubles "base", plus fighting for participation. It turns out at all a fabulous amount of 600 thousand per month,” Kots writes. Later, he clarified that these were not ‘PMCs’, but volunteer formations such as the Combat Army Reserve of the Country. According to him, despite good funding, it is experiencing a shortage of supplies.
The fact that Gazpromneft wants to create a private security organization to protect the Russian energy infrastructure became known in early February. On February 6, the state corporation received permission from the authorities. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the creation of the company is part of the Kremlin’s plan to remove Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of PMC Wagner, and his militants from business.
Story from February on the creation of the Gazprom mercenary group
Gazprom Neft creates its own private military company
Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on February 4 signed the order allowing Gazprom Neft to establish a private military company.
The existence of private military groups has gained attention both in and outside Russia following the Wagner Group’s brutal violence in Africa and Ukraine. The Wagner Group’s paramilitary unit of mercenaries is financed and owned by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a criminal who served nine years in jail for robbery before establishing close ties with Vladimir Putin.
There are several other ragtag groups that operate as small private armies, but with close ties with the Defence Ministry and Russian military intelligence service (GRU).
One such is the Patriot, affiliated with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu.
Gazprom Neft will be the first in the Arctic formally allowed to have its own private military company (PMC).
In the order, Prime Minister Mishustin points to the law on Fuel and Energy Complex facilities and grants “the right to establish a private security organization” - the same designation as used for the Wagner Group.
Gazprom Neft is the oil-producing subsidiary of Gazprom. The company holds many licenses in Siberia, including fields in the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi autonomous areas. In the European Arctic, Gazprom Neft is the owner of Prirazlomnoye, Russia’s only offshore oil production in the eastern Barents Sea.
The head of the political bloc of the Navalny Foundation resigned because of a letter in defense of billionaires
Leonid Volkov, head of the political bloc of the Anti-Corruption Foundation founded by Alexei Navalny, resigned after a scandal over a letter defending sanctioned Russian billionaires.
Volkov, who served as chairman of the FBK, said on Thursday that he was "taking a break from public activities" and invited his colleagues to decide whether they were ready to continue working with him.
Volkov called a letter he sent to the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, a "political mistake" in October. In it, Volkov asked to lift sanctions from a number of wealthy Russians, including Mikhail Fridman and his partners in Alfa Group (Peter Aven, German Khan, Alexei Kuzmichev).
“Having done this, I exceeded my authority - I signed it (letter-ed.) Not in my personal capacity, but on behalf of the organization. I didn’t inform my colleagues, and, therefore, I framed them, ”admitted Volkov.
The letter, signed by Volkov, was previously published by Ekho Moskvy editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov after the FBK released an investigation that said the journalist received funding from the Moscow mayor's office.
Volkov said on March 8 that his signature on the appeal was "photoshopped", but the next day he acknowledged its authenticity.
Georgia withdraws ‘foreign influence’ bill but opposition vows more protests
Georgia’s ruling party has withdrawn a controversial “foreign influence” bill after two nights of protests in Tbilisi, but the opposition warned that more demonstrations were planned on Thursday.
The announcement that the bill would be scrapped, carried by the country’s public broadcaster, was made hours after tens of thousands of people gathered outside the Georgian parliament for a second night of rallies, some clashing with police.
The Executive Secretary of the Droa opposition party, Giga Lemonjala, said his party “did not believe” the ruling Georgian Dream party would withdraw the legislation, “because we have very sad experience that Georgian Dream has lied to the Georgian public several times.”
Georgian opposition demands resignation of government, early elections
On the third day of mass protests in Tbilisi, Georgian opposition politicians voiced their demands for the resignation of the country's government and early elections, local TV channel Rustavi 2 reported on March 9.
Part of the opposition said the protests triggered by a controversial bill on "foreign agents" passed by the Georgian parliament in the first reading would not stop until the participants were convinced that Georgia's course to Europe is "unshakable," according to Rustavi 2.
Georgian news outlet Interpressnews reported that the protesters had announced another rally on March 10, when the country's parliament should vote on the so-called second reading of the bill it claimed to have already withdrawn.
Several law experts said, as cited by European Pravda, that it is procedurally impossible to simply "withdraw" a draft law approved in the first reading. The parliament can do it only by rejecting the bill during the second reading.
US gets warrant to seize plane owned by Russian oil firm Rosneft
The United States on Wednesday obtained a warrant to seize a Boeing aircraft owned by Russian oil company Rosneft that is valued at over $25 million, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York authorized the seizure, based on violations of export controls and sanctions against Russia, the Justice Department said.
Western sanctions against Russia over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022 have impeded global trade and complicated the financing capabilities of Russian oil firms. Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin, a long-standing ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was sanctioned by the United States.
In unprecedented interview from Tehran jail, American prisoner speaks with CNN
For over seven years, US citizen Siamak Namazi has been imprisoned in Iran's notorious Evin prison. Now he is speaking out to plead with President Biden to get him and his two compatriots released.
Wagner Boss 'Cut Off' From Official Channels After Public Ammo Plea
The head of Russia’s notorious Wagner mercenary group Yevgeniy Prigozhin said on Thursday that he’d been cut off from all government communication channels following his recent public plea to the Ministry of Defense to supply his fighters in Ukraine with urgently needed ammunition.
“In order to stop me from asking for ammunition, they turned off all special [government] phone lines in all of the offices and [Wagner] units … and blocked all [my] passes to the agencies responsible for making decisions,” Prigozhin said in a message posted on his Telegram channel.
Prigozhin made headlines last month when he accused Russia's top brass of committing "treason" by intentionally depriving his fighters in eastern Ukraine of ammunition supplies.
Another Credit Suisse Client Revealed as Boss of Russian Criminal Group
After last year's revelations concerning Credit Suisse having hosted funds of criminal or illicit origin, more data are surfacing about the bank’s problematic clients - this time it’s the head of a Russian criminal gang, allegedly close to the Russian president. As late as October 2022, Swiss banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse provided debt security to a Cypriot trust — PTC, whose beneficial owner Gavril Yushvaev was a known founder of Baumanskaya, one of Russia’s three most powerful organized crime groups.
Only recently sanctioned by the Ukrainian government, Yushvaev was previously labeled by the U.S. government as a member of the so-called ‘Putin List’, mainly made of senior political officials and oligarchs.
Yushvaev was described by Forbes as one of Russia’s top 100 wealthiest individuals with investments of over US$100 million in apps such as Lyft. His wealth includes Villa Primavera, located in France’s most exclusive stretch of beach, Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat.