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Russian tycoon Boris Mints attacks Putin

Boris Mints has criticized Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine, despite being included by the US Congress in the “Putin list”.

Update:
Boris Mints has criticized Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine, despite being included by the US Congress in the “Putin list”.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEVGetty

The majority of the Russian elite have remained silent on the invasion of Ukraine and have avoided outward criticism of the Kremlin.

This behavior has a simple explanation, according to Russia tycoon Boris Mints: “Everyone is afraid” adding that anyone who criticizes Putin in public “has grounds to worry about personal safety.”

In an email interview, Mints told the BBC that he has “no intention to live in a bomb shelter, as Mr Putin does.”. The 64-year-old billionaire, who built his fortune through his investment firm 01 Group, founded in 2003 and sold in 2018, said Russia was the “usual way” to punish a businessman for “lack of tolerance” that he shows towards the Moscow regime is to “present a fabricated criminal case against his business”.

Related: Natalia Vovk, the spy accused of assassinating Daria Dugina

Harsh criticism from Mints

“Such criminal cases will affect not only the business owners themselves, but also their family and employees,” argued Mints, continuing by saying “any business leader independent from [Putin] is seen as a threat as he or she may be capable of financing opposition or cultivating protest - as such, those people are seen as Putin’s enemies and, therefore, as enemies of the state.”

Mints has been at the center of tensions with the Kremlin since 2014, when he criticized Putin’s policies after annexation of Crimea. He felt he needed to leave Russia in 2015 for the UK ”in the context of a growing crackdown on political opposition,” after Boris Nemtsov was shot dead that year.

Ask for peace but without criticizing Putin

Two years later, Mints’ former investment company “found itself in an open conflict against Central Bank of Russia,” and various legal proceedings were launched against the firm.

“When things like this start to happen, it is a clear signal that one should leave the country immediately,” he added when speaking to his motivation to leave Russia.

When citing the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the Russia’s richest man, Mints said that for wealthy Russians who do not like Putin that “bravest step available” to them is to “go silently into exile.”

Two of Russia's most prominent oligarchs, Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska, called for peace in Ukraine but avoided criticizing Putin. Fridman, a billionaire banker, justified his decision by saying that any personal attack could put him and his employees and colleagues at risk.

Current situation of Mints

On the other hand, Mints and Oleg Tinkov, the founder of Tinkoff Bank, did not shy away from harshly attacking the Russian president for his decision to invade Ukraine. Mints said that Putin’s actions were “despicable” and that the war, which he compared to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, was “the most tragic event in recent history, not only of Ukraine and Russia, but globally”.

Mints, who currently lives in the UK and collects art, stated that he felt safe and did not need special protection for himself and his family. In addition, he added that for now he had no intention of returning to Russia.

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