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An oligarch believes that almost all Russians are united against the war, and demands Putin be given a ‘clear exit’

April 20, 2022, 5:55 PM UTC

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, some Russian elites have spoken out against the economic consequences that a prolonged war would have on Russia. But the recent comments of businessman Oleg Tinkov may be the strongest repudiation from a Russian oligarch yet.

Tinkov—who made his fortune in 2006 founding Tinkoff Bank, which would go on to become one of the world’s largest online banks—has been sharing anti-war opinions on social media since the invasion began. But his latest criticism went beyond expressing sympathy for Ukrainians and focused on the ineptitude of the Russian army and government, while alleging that most of his compatriots were opposed to the war.

After referring to the Russian army with an expletive, Tinkov turned his attention toward criticizing the Russian government directly. 

“How can the army be good if everything else in the country sucks and is mired in nepotism and servility,” he wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday, while also suggesting that Kremlin officials were “lackeys” following Putin’s commands.

“I don’t see a single beneficiary of this crazy war,” Tinkov wrote.

The oligarch also addressed the mysterious “Z” symbol that has been spotted on several Russian tanks and other military vehicles, and has been interpreted by Western military experts and analysts as a show of support for the war. But Tinkov claims that very few Russians actually supported the invasion.

Tinkov wrote that while there are “idiots that write the letter Z,” in Russia, the vast majority of Russians disagree, saying that “90% of Russians are against this war.”

Since the war began, some oligarchs have criticized its potential economic ramifications. But Tinkov’s latest post is different in the way that it took aim at the Russian government and its army.

Tinkov—who has been living in London since at least 2020—has been under Western sanctions since the end of March, and the war has severely crimped his wealth. 

Tinkov was worth nearly $5 billion in 2021, but sanctions on Russia have seen the oligarch’s fortune depleted to around $800 million, according to Forbes. That means he’s lost his billionaire status in less than two months.

At the end of his Instagram post, which was mostly written in Russian, Tinkov switched to English and called on the West to take the initiative to end the war.

“Dear ‘collective West,’ please give Mr. Putin a clear exit to save his face and stop this massacre,” Tinkov wrote, before imploring the West to be “more rational and humanitarian.”

The Ukraine invasion, now in its eighth week, has caused tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Ukraine and has created a humanitarian crisis in Europe. More than 5 million refugees have left Ukraine since the war began.

On Wednesday, Tinkoff Bank distanced itself from its founder and his comments.

“Oleg Tinkov is one of our 20 million clients. We know that our clients think differently, and we respect their right to their own opinion, whether we support it or not,” the bank said.  

Other Russian oligarchs who have criticized the war in Ukraine include metal king Oleg Deripaska, who lamented the possibility of a drawn-out war, and Mikhail Friedman, one of Russia’s richest men, who called the invasion a “tragedy.”

Within Russia, the government has cracked down on any sign of protest against the war. A law was passed in March that criminalized the spread of “false information” about the war, which could be met with up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

On Wednesday, a Russian prosecutor announced he would be exploring options to prosecute Tinkov in accordance with the new law, the Moscow Times reported.

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