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Putin’s revenge on Russian tycoon for criticising him

Oleg Tinkov has said that he was forced to sell this share in Russia’s second largest bank after comments he made on Instagram about the Ukraine invasion.

Putin’s revenge on Russian tycoon for criticising him
Alexei Danichev / AFPOleg Tinkov / IG

Oleg Tinkov remains, for the moment, a Russian tycoon. I say for the moment because his country’s president, Vladimir Putin, has threatened to nationalise his bank Tinkoff, listed as Russia’s second largest, after the tycoon criticised the war in Ukraine in a post on Instagram.

“Innocent people and soldiers are dying. The generals, waking up with a hangover, realised they had a shitty army. And how will the army be good, if everything else in the country is shitty and mired in nepotism, servility and subservience? [...] 90% of Russians are AGAINST this war!”, Oleg’s post on 19 April read.

A week later, he sold his 35% stake in TCS Group Holdings, which owns the bank, to Russian mining billionaire, Vladimir Potanin, who remains close to the president. For Oleg, speaking to The New York Times, the move was a “desperate sale, a forced sale” imposed by the Kremlin. “I couldn’t argue with the price,” Tinkov explained. “I was like a hostage: you take what they offer you. I couldn’t negotiate.” This is the first time the tycoon has given an interview since the war in Ukraine began.

What happened with Tinkov reflects the situation faced by Russian oligarchs: you are either with Putin or against him, which would explain the relative silence among the country’s biggest tycoons. In fact, as he confessed to the NYT, many of his acquaintances in the business and government elite agree with him, but “everyone is afraid” of the consequences of their words. According to The Washington Post, however, the first cracks are already appearing between the those elites and Putin.

“I thought Putin’s regime was bad. But, of course, I had no idea that it would take such a catastrophic scale,” Tinkov said. “I realised that Russia, as a country, no longer exists.”

The magnate, who has suffered from leukaemia, explained that his contacts within the Russian security services told him he should fear for his life, so he has hired bodyguards. He also managed to joke that while the disease did not end his life, the Kremlin will kill him. “They told me: ‘The decision regarding you has been made.’ Whether that means they are going to kill me, I don’t know. I don’t rule it out.”

Tinkoff denies its founder’s claims

Despite these claims, representatives of the bank founded by the tycoon in 2006 have denied them, explaining in a statement that “there were no threats of any kind against the bank’s leadership” and that “Oleg has not been in Moscow for many years, did not participate in the life of the company and was not involved in any affairs”.

According to the businessman, a day after he published the controversial post, the Russian government contacted the bank’s executives to tell them that any relationship with Tinkov would be a major problem.

“They said: ‘Your shareholder’s statement is not welcome, and we will nationalise your bank if you don’t sell it and the owner doesn’t change, and if you don’t change the name’,” Tinkov said, citing sources inside the bank that he declined to identify specifically. On 22 April, Tinkoff announced it would change its name this year.

“I don’t believe in the future of Russia [...] The most important thing is that I am not prepared to associate my brand and my name with a country that attacks its neighbours for no reason.”


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