Former Russian oligarch Oleg Tinkov, a sharp critic of the “crazy war” in Ukraine, now resides in Switzerland after being expropriated by the Kremlin. At 55 years old, Tinkov is an avowed Putin hater and does not shy away from denouncing the Russian elite’s silence on the invasion. He now condemns Putin loyalists as “cowards” and urges Kremlin profiteers to oppose the war. Tinkov believes that the West should incentivize them to do so by offering the prospect of lifting sanctions. Tinkov recently made history as the first Russian billionaire to have Western sanctions against him lifted.
A British court upheld his challenge to the sanctions, and he sees this victory as a signal to Moscow’s elite to speak out against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Consequently, the UK lifted sanctions against the exiled former banking tycoon Oleg Tinkov. He views the removal of sanctions as a positive development, showing other Russian businessmen that leaving Russia for the civilized world is a viable option.
From the outset, Tinkov stood against Putin’s actions, denouncing the war and voicing concerns about Russia’s descent into “fascism.” In protest, he renounced his Russian citizenship, a move that caused several other Russian billionaires to sever ties with him out of fear. Tinkov now hopes to convince Russia’s oligarchs to take a stand against Putin and make a clear choice between supporting him and advocating for peace.
While some Russian oligarchs express a willingness to speak out against Russian president Vladimir Putin if provided with a clear path to lifting sanctions, many prefer to hope for peace and avoid direct criticism to safeguard their fortunes. The Kremlin has adopted a strategy of rewarding loyalty among Russian businessmen, promising them greater wealth through the acquisition of Western companies in Russia. This has led to a significant transfer of wealth in the country, but there remains a constant fear of being expropriated by the Kremlin, even for those currently loyal to Putin.
Tinkov, who has not visited Russia since being diagnosed with leukemia in 2019, now lives in Switzerland and lost his shares in his bank, Tinkoff, due to his severe criticism of the war. Despite being exempt from sanctions in the West, Tinkov admits that life has not been easy, and the sanctions have made things more challenging for him than for businessmen who have stayed in Russia.
Despite the difficulties he faces, Tinkov continues to be outspoken and sees himself as a hero for England and Europe, willing to put himself in danger for his beliefs. He acknowledges that his situation is not fair when compared to Putin’s regime friends who live lavish lifestyles, running banks and traveling the world. Tinkov’s hope for Russia’s future under Putin remains uncertain, and he believes that the constant shifting of assets, lack of laws, and unpredictable nature of the country’s politics make it akin to a game of Russian roulette.