Russian oligarch with ties to Trump says a new ‘Iron Curtain’ has fallen, dooming Putin’s country to years of economic crisis

March 3, 2022, 11:04 PM UTC

Oleg Deripaska, a Russian industrialist, has called for an end to the war in Ukraine, joining a handful of oligarchs who have dared to speak out against the invasion. 

“Peace is very important! It is insane to prolong [peace] negotiations!” Deripaska wrote on Thursday on the instant messaging service Telegram, predicting a major economic crisis for Russia if sanctions and isolation from the west continue.

Also on Thursday, Deripaska spoke at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum, a Siberian economic conference, saying that the wave of sanctions hitting Russian businesses would be akin to a new “Iron Curtain,” a Cold-War era ideological barrier that divided the USSR from western Europe and its allies, the Wall Street Journal reports

“The crisis will be most severe for a minimum of three years. Take the 1998 crisis and multiply it by three,” Deripaska said at the conference. 

Deripaska stated that a repeat of the Russian 1998 financial crisis — a huge market and currency collapse that led to massive capital flight from the country and required financial aid from the IMF and the World Bank — could be avoided. But that’s only if the war in Ukraine was declared over and peace was restored.

If hostilities continue, Deripaska fears that western sanctions will create a challenge that Russia “has never faced.”

Deripaska, who has a net worth of nearly $3 billion, according to Forbes, isn’t the only Russian oligarch to publicly speak against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and its economic consequences.

Mikhail Fridman, one of Russia’s wealthiest men and another recent target of EU sanctions, also said in a letter to employees obtained by the Financial Times that the situation was a “tragedy” and that “war can never be the answer.”

Oleg Tinkov — founder of Tinkoff Bank, a commercial bank that offers primarily online services — also shared an anti-war post on his Instagram account Monday that read, “Innocent people are dying in Ukraine now, every day, this is unthinkable and unacceptable.”

Putin has cracked down on dissent against the war in Ukraine. Police have rounded up many of the participants in massive anti-war protests across Russia. It’s unclear how much latitude oligarchs have with their criticism.

Deripaska — who made his fortune as the founder of Basic Element, one of Russia’s largest business groups with a focus on industrial manufacturing and mining — was placed on a U.S. sanctions list in 2018, after a crackdown on Russian interference with U.S. elections and cyberattacks. The Treasury Department had accused Deripaska of money laundering, threatening the lives of business rivals, wiretapping a government official, taking part in extortion, and racketeering. 

Deripaska was famously a client of Paul Manafort, the one-time campaign manager to former President Donald Trump. Manafort was convicted on several counts of fraud in 2018, and was pardoned by Trump in 2020. The work Deripaska commissioned Manafort to do reportedly involved the rehabilitation in Ukraine of its own former president, Viktor Yanukovych, the man who won the disputed run-off election that precipitated the 2004 Orange Revolution, then lost a second run-off and departed office. His rival at the time, Viktor Yushchenko, was later revealed by medical tests to have survived poisoning. A local media report this week suggested that Putin now wants to reinstate Yanukovych as Ukraine’s head of state.

Like many other oligarchs at the moment, Deripaska appears to be trying to protect his more vulnerable assets. On Tuesday, Agence France Presse reported that his 240-foot yacht and two other Russian billionaires’ superyachts had docked in The Maldives, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. 

As of Thursday, the ship is still there.

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