Vladimir Potaninone of Russia’s richest oligarchs and a confidant of the Kremlin, criticized plans to seize assets of foreign companies leaving the country, comparing them to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.
Potanin, who runs the Nornickel mining company, drew the parallel as Vladimir Putin’s government grapples with how to respond to massive Western sanctions against Moscow for his invasion of Ukraine.
The seizures have not been announced, but have been floated as an idea to hit back at the West.
“I would ask for a very cautious approach to the issue of confiscations of companies that have announced that they are leaving RussiaPotanin said in a statement posted by his mining company Nornickel on Telegram.
“This would take us back a hundred years, to the year 1917, and the consequences of such a step would be global distrust of Russia by investors, which would be felt for many decades.”, he stressed.
A wave of Western companies, from H&M to McDonald’s to Ikea, have suspended their work in Russia since Moscow launched its foray into Ukraine.
Potanin predicted that Western companies would return and said they decided to leave during “unprecedented pressure on them due to public opinion abroad”.
“Personally, I would keep this opportunity to themselves.”, he added.
Faced with a barrage of sanctions that have pushed down the ruble and accelerated already high inflation, Russia has taken measures to curb currency and capital flight as much as possible.
Without saying the wordnationalization”, Putin said on Thursday that foreign companies leaving Russia should be handed over to “those who want to make them work”.
He also said Russia is still open for business, calling for any remaining foreign investors in the country to be “protected.”
Putin’s ruling United Russia party told the Kremlin chief that it had prepared a bill that would be “the first step towards the nationalization of assets of foreign companies leaving the Russian market”. He said the bill is aimed at “saving jobs.”
Potanin, 61, regularly appears at the top of Forbes’ list of the richest people in Russia. He is close to Putin, with whom he has been seen playing hockey.
Other Russian oligarchs have criticized Russia’s economic policies since Putin sent troops to Ukraine, stopping short of criticizing the president himself.
(With information from AFP)
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