The good news is that Russian and Donbas separatist leaders have called an end to the “New Russia” project, which had targeted eight Russian-speaking regions of eastern and southern Ukraine for separatist agitation and union with Russia. The bad news is that while it always was a mistake to assume Ukraine’s Russian-speakers were fans of president Vladimir Putin, Ukraine’s political vacuum and its selective “de-oligarchisation” are allowing diehards from the former ruling Party of Regions grouped in the Opposition Bloc and funded by Ukraine’s powerful gas lobby to retain influence in eastern and southern Ukraine. Read more
Even with the threat of Russian invasion and economic punishment hanging over them, Ukraine’s authorities are busy hunting down what they consider to be the cronies of toppled president Viktor Yanukovich.
The most recent of a dozen or so individuals to be put on the wanted list – some of them former government officials – is Serhiy Kurchenko. Read more
By Ievgen Vorobiov of the Polish Institute of International Affairs
With protests in Kiev turning increasingly violent, the chances of a political compromise seem far less than they were just a month ago. Until recently, hopes for an agreement rested partly with the supposedly moderating influence of the country’s oligarchs. But this has changed. Read more
It’s not often that a multimillionaire moves into a president’s backyard. But something along those lines is happening in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Serhiy Klyuyev, a multimillionaire pro-presidential lawmaker, revealed that he had agreed to spend some $18m to buy into a controversial 127 hectare luxury estate within which his long time political boss, President Viktor Yanukovich, resides. It’s a situation that would be mind-boggling in any normal country. Read more
Billionaire Roman Abramovich has resigned as chairman of the legislature of the remote Russian region of Chukotka, to comply with a new law banning officials from owning foreign securities and bank accounts.
But that won’t be the end of his long-standing commitment to the frozen wastes of Chukotka and their population of 50,000. As the state website reported on Tuesday, Abramovich “will continue to participate in the life of the Chukotka Autonomous District. In particular, he will continue to implement a number of major regional business projects that will significantly increase the region’s future tax base.” Having got their oligarch, the good citizens of Chukotka aren’t letting him go. Read more
You might have thought that after the battle of the billionaires at Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s oligarchs might try to steer clear of each other in the boardroom for a while.
Not Alisher Usmanov (above left). On Friday, Megafon, the phone company he controls, finalised a $1.1bn deal to buy half the largest handset retailer Euroset.
The other half will belong to rival operator VimpelCom, where the biggest shareholder is fellow billionaire Mikhail Fridman (below left). Read more
Russia faces a new drama involving the authorities and a billionaire accused of a criminal offence who claims, in his defence, to be the victim of a political vendetta.
The star of the show this time is Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent turned businessman and Kremlin critic, who owns British newspapers headed by The Independent and the London Evening Standard, as well as Novaya Gazeta, an opposition-minded Russian newspaper that focuses on official corruption.
The alleged offence is far more colourful than the usual tax fraud charges levelled against oligarchs. Lebedev is charged with hooliganism over a television punch-up that was watched by millions (see after the break). This one could run and run. Read more
By William Scott-Gall of Kroll
As the judgement in the Boris Berezovsky vs. Roman Abramovich case at London’s Commercial Court has shown (with victory for Abramovich) silent partnerships based on oral agreements can lead to unintended financial and reputational consequences. Abramovich may have won, but he has been forced to disclose uncomfortable details about his business practices, and investors have learnt of the extent to which business in Russia is reliant on krysha or protection. Read more
One of the most expensive court case in legal history came to a close on Friday, after a London judge rejected Boris Berezovsky’s $6.5bn claims against fellow Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
While the case has captivated the UK and British tabloids, back home in Russia interest in the trial has been decidedly more subdued. Read more
Roman Abramovich has been declared the winner in his epic British High Court battle with rival oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
But Berezovsky is far from being the only loser. Russian business has suffered another damaging assault on its reputation. By shining a light on the ugly inner workings of Russian capitalism in the 1990s, the trial will serve as a warning to investors doing deals with oligarchs – beware of the past, it may come back and bite you. Read more
Who owns the Russian equity market and how does ownership affect company performance? A new research note from Troika Dialog sheds some light.
The short answer to the first question is, the state, which is the single largest player with 30 per cent of equity ownership. This compares with a free float of 27 per cent owned by institutional and private investors. The answer to the second question is a bit more complex. Read more
After years of squabbling, an amicable parting of ways between Megafon shareholders appears to be close on the horizon. The Russian mobile operator announced on Friday that it had secured a total $4.5bn in financing from Sberbank, Gazprom and western lenders, paving the way for Megafon’s management and biggest shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, to buy out rival oligarch Mikhail Fridman’s stake in the business.
A sale of the 25 per cent stake (held through Altimo, the telecoms arm of Fridman’s Alfa-Group) is expected to speed along Megafon’s long-awaited IPO which could now take place in the second half of this year if everything goes accordingly. Read more
The Russian aluminium producer’s net profit for 2011 fell by more than 90 per cent after a $1.4bn writedown on the value of its 30 per cent stake in Norilsk Nickel. Lex discuss the implications for the investors of the determined pursuit of Norilsk by Rusal’s controlling shareholder Oleg Deripaska.