The Russian billionaire daring to talk out about Putin

Boris Mints on the World Chess Championship Match Opening Ceremony at The Plaza Resort in 2016 in New York Metropolis

Boris Mints is one of some wealthy Russian businesspeople to talk out in opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin.

The vast majority of high-profile folks within the nation have remained silent over the battle, avoiding criticism of the Kremlin.

There’s one easy clarification, in accordance with Mr Mints: “They’re all afraid.”

The Kremlin has a popularity for cracking down on outspoken critics of President Putin with the content material on Russian news channels managed. Unauthorised protests have additionally been banned within the nation since 2014.

Mr Mints mentioned “any individual” who overtly criticises Putin “has grounds to fret about private security”.

Nonetheless, in an interview carried out over e-mail, he advised the BBC: “I’ve no intention to dwell in a bomb shelter, as Mr Putin does.”

The 64-year-old, who constructed his wealth by way of funding firm O1 Group, which he based in 2003 after which offered in 2018, mentioned that in Russia the “common approach” to punish a enterprise proprietor for his or her “intolerance” in direction of the regime was to “open a fabricated felony case in opposition to their enterprise”.

“Such felony instances will have an effect on not solely the enterprise house owners themselves, but additionally their household and workers,” he mentioned.

“Any enterprise chief impartial from [Putin] is seen as a menace as she or he could also be able to financing opposition or cultivating protest – as such, these persons are seen as Putin’s enemies and, subsequently, as enemies of the state,” he added.

‘Inevitable imprisonment’

It’s a state of affairs Mr Mints has first-hand expertise of, having first spoken out publicly in opposition to President Putin’s insurance policies in 2014 after Crimea was annexed from Ukraine.

Mr Mints felt he wanted to depart Russia in 2015 for the UK “within the context of rising crackdown on political opposition”, with Boris Nemtsov being shot useless that yr.

Mr Nemtsov was a fierce adversary of President Putin. His homicide in 2015 is the highest-profile political killing since Mr Putin got here to energy. The authorities deny any involvement.

Two years later, Mr Mints’ former funding firm O1 Group “discovered itself in an open battle in opposition to Central Financial institution of Russia”, he mentioned, with authorized proceedings beginning throughout a number of completely different jurisdictions.

“When issues like this begin to occur, it’s a clear sign that one ought to depart the nation instantly,” he mentioned.

He stays the topic of present authorized motion by the Kremlin.

It’s due to such motion that Mr Mints suggests the “bravest step out there” for rich Russians who dislike Mr Putin is to “go silently into exile”, citing the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was as soon as Russia’s wealthiest man, however was jailed for nearly a decade on expenses of fraud and tax evasion which, he says, had been politically motivated.

Putin and Yeltsin

Boris Mints labored for Boris Yeltsin’s (proper) authorities, however was sacked by Vladimir Putin (left) days into his tenure

Two of the nation’s most outstanding oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska stopped wanting direct criticism of Mr Putin once they made separate requires peace in Ukraine.

Mr Fridman, a billionaire banker, mentioned any private remarks may very well be a danger not simply to himself but additionally to employees and colleagues.

Nonetheless, Mr Mints has been joined by Russian tycoon Oleg Tinkov, founding father of Tinkoff Financial institution and former proprietor of biking group Tinkoff-Saxo, in lambasting the invasion.

Mr Mints referred to as President Putin’s actions “vile”, saying the invasion was “probably the most tragic occasion in latest historical past, not solely of Ukraine and Russia, however globally”.

He additionally in contrast it to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

“This battle is a results of insanity and starvation for energy of a single individual, Vladimir Putin, supported by his inside circle,” mentioned Mr Mints, who was chairman of one of many largest pension asset managers in Russia till 2018.

The BBC has contacted the Kremlin for remark.

‘Sacked the day after we met’

Mr Mints was first launched to Mr Putin within the early Nineties however solely correctly spoke with him on 2 January 2000, two days after Mr Putin was appointed performing president of Russia.

Mr Mints, who labored beneath former Russian President Boris Yeltsin within the Nineties, was eager to debate his plans to reform native authorities to develop Russia’s democracy into the twenty first Century.

“Mr Putin listened to my strategies with out commenting or arguing. The next day, Putin sacked me,” he mentioned.

He knew then that Mr Putin’s imaginative and prescient for his nation was “miles away” from the earlier administration’s.

Leaving politics, Mr Mints began a inventory brokerage for particular person purchasers three years later.

Mr Mints has not been sanctioned by the UK authorities, in contrast to different Russian businessmen who’ve been recognized as having shut hyperlinks to the Kremlin.

Nonetheless, his title did seem on a so-called “Putin listing” launched by the US in 2018. Out of 210 names, 114 of them had been listed as being within the authorities or linked to it, or key businessmen.

The opposite 96, which included Mr Mints, had been listed as oligarchs apparently decided extra by the very fact they had been value greater than $1bn (£710m) on the time, reasonably than their shut ties to the Kremlin.

The daddy-of-four made Forbes’ world billionaires listing in 2017 with a complete wealth of $1.3bn, earlier than he dropped off in 2018.

However he dismissed strategies that he was an oligarch.

“Not each Russian entrepreneur is pro-Putin, and likewise neither is each rich Russian individual an ‘oligarch’,” he mentioned. “In Russia, the time period means a enterprise chief who could be very linked to Putin and most of whose wealth, or the earnings of their companies, depend upon co-operation with the Russian state.

“Russia shouldn’t be solely an oilfield with an aluminium mine within the centre,” he added. “It’s a nation of 140 million folks. Folks there as in every single place else have their wants and these wants are by no means completely different from these right here within the West.”

Now residing within the UK, Mr Mints, a eager artwork collector, feels snug with out the necessity for additional safety to maintain himself and his household secure in Britain, and has no present ambition to maneuver again to Russia.

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