Prisoner urges UK to lift sanctions against London's 'last oligarch'
Jailed Putin critic calls on UK to lift sanctions against London’s ‘last oligarch’ Mikhail Fridman who owns Highgate Victorian mansion and is ‘very sceptical about the current Russian government’
- Jailed Putin critic Ilya Yashin wants sanctions against Mikhail Fridman lifted
- UK and EU have frozen the businessman’s assets worth an estimated £8.2billion
A jailed Putin critic has called on the UK to lift sanctions against one of the last Russian oligarchs living in London, it has emerged.
Ilya Yashin, 39, urged the Government to free billionaire Mikhail Fridman from the sanctions list, alleging he has ‘serious doubts about the fairness and validity’ of the financial restrictions.
Yashin told The Times that Fridman, 58, has ‘never been what is usually called “Putin’s oligarch”‘ and therefore cannot be labelled as a ‘warmonger’.
The businessman, who lives in a £65million mansion in Highgate, is worth an estimated £8.2billion. His assets were frozen last March and he is only allowed access to around £2,000 per month.
A jailed Putin critic has called on the UK to lift sanctions against Mikhail Fridman (pictured in 2019), one of the last Russian oligarchs living in London
The businessman, who lives in a £65million mansion in Highgate (pictured), is worth an estimated £8.2billion. His assets were frozen last March and he is only allowed access to around £2,000 per month
The Government has described Fridman as a ‘pro-Kremlin oligarch’ who is ‘closely associated with Vladimir Putin’.
The UK also alleges the billionaire’s Alfa-Bank helps support the Russian regime, according to the newspaper.
Britain’s sanctions list further states that Fridman’s alleged ties to Putin make his associated with someone ‘involved in destabilising and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine’.
Similarly, the EU sanctions listing claims he ‘managed to cultivate strong ties’ with Moscow and enables Putin’s so-called inner circle.
However, Yashin – who has been imprisoned in Russia since last year for condemning Putin’s massacre of Ukrainian citizens – claims Fridman is connected to Russian opposition leaders and ‘very sceptical’ about the Kremlin government.
‘He cannot be considered a warmonger or sponsor of the war,’ the activist wrote of the alleged oligarch.
‘Fridman is a private businessman who, of course, interacted with the Russian political machinery but at the same time did not compromise himself in any way by participating in the political projects of the Russian government’.
Russian opposition leader Ilya Yashin, 39, (pictured at a hearing at the Meshchansky district court in Moscow last year) urged the Government to free Fridman from the sanctions list, alleging he has ‘serious doubts about the fairness and validity’ of the financial restrictions
A friend of Fridman’s echoed Yashin’s claims, arguing that he is ‘not pro-Kremlin’ and has never had a one-on-one interaction with Putin.
The billionaire’s friend also shared that Fridman stopped being a Russian tax resident in 2015 and instead pays taxes in the UK, where he has lived since at least 2014.
Fridman was also allegedly ‘inquiring about British citizenship,’ the friend told The Times.
Furthermore, Putin himself seemingly mocked Fridman in a speech last month, suggesting he has little respect for the oligarch.
‘Recent events have clearly shown that the image of the West as a safe haven for capital was a mirage,’ the Kremlin leader said of oligarchs who fled Russia.
‘Those who failed to understand this in time, who saw Russia only as a source of income and planned to live mostly abroad, have lost a lot. They just got robbed there and saw even their legitimate money taken away.’
Fridman, a father-of-five, currently lives in his north London mansion with his partner Oksana and their three-year-old daughter.
Those close to him say he cannot leave the UK because he has ‘nowhere to go.’
British Prime Minister Tony Blair stands with Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Fridman and BP CEO Lord Browne after signing a joint business deal during a Russia-UK energy summit in 2003
Then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin meets with leading industrialists and bankers Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, Alexander Smolensky, Vladimir Potanin, Vladimir Vinogradov and Mikhail Fridman in 1997
The billionaire’s friends allege his criticisms of the war and relationships with Russian dissidents ‘make Moscow dangerous.’
Although Fridman – who is Jewish – has an Israeli passport, he reportedly does not own a home in the country. The oligarch’s friends claim that because of the sanctions he also has ‘no access’ to funds needed to purchase a new home.
Fridman, however, is more concerned about the impacts the sanctions are having on his children than his access to money, according to the newspaper.
His 26-year-old daughter Katia has reportedly been sanctioned by Canada, blocking her from being able to renew her visa in the US. She has worked and resided in America for nine years.
Similarly, his ex-wife of 17 years, Olga Ayziman, has been sanctioned in France, where she lives.
Ayziman, who is Katia’s mother, claimed the EU sanctions were imposed ‘without notice or explanation’.
Her sanctions were reportedly lifted after six months, however she remains concerned for Fridman, claiming the entire situation has been ‘extremely hard for him psychologically’.
Fridman, (pictured in 2019) who was born in Ukraine and has reportedly heavily invested in Ukrainian businesses, has taken legal action to challenge the UK and EU sanctions
Fridman, who was born in western Ukraine and has reportedly heavily invested in Ukrainian businesses, is understood to have taken legal action to challenge the UK and EU sanctions.
He was arrested last December after 50 officers from the National Crime Squad raided his north London mansion.
He was taken into custody on suspicion ‘of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office and conspiracy to commit perjury’.
Fridman denies any wrongdoing and his friends allege the raid was ‘an effort to humiliate him and force him to quit the country’.
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