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The richest man in Russia has not been included in western sanctions, despite his close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Potanin has the highest documented net worth in Russia, with the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index putting his total wealth at some $25.9 billion.
He's known to have close links to Putin, having been photographed at a number of events with the president over the past 20 years, and the pair are even understood to play ice hockey together at Potanin's private rink.
Yet despite their relationship, which was documented in 2018 with the release of the notorious US Treasury 'Putin list' of prominent Russian businessmen who had financial and political ties with the president, Potanin has so far evaded the sanctions that have targeted other prominent oligarchs in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Insider reports.
Potanin has a long history of involvement in Russia's political system, having first worked for the Soviet government in the Ministry of Foreign Trade. While there, he masterminded the 'loans for shares' scheme – a policy that enabled Russian businessmen to take control of the assets of Russian firms for below market prices – now generally regarded as key moment in the establishment of the Russian oligarch system. Potanin himself benefited hugely from the scheme, acquiring a significant stake in Nornickel, the metal manufacturing giant that also brought Roman Abramovich his wealth.
In 1991, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, Potanin founded the conglomerate Interros and Onexim Bank, but retained his power in politics as one of the 'Big Seven' – a group of Russian oligarchs who helped get Boris Yeltsin re-elected as Russian president in 1996. Following Yeltsin's re-election, Potanin was appointed first deputy prime minister, serving in the role until 1997.
He's continued to hold close ties with key Russian political figures, and has been involved in a number of projects on behalf of Putin's government, including helping to finance venues for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Despite so far evading sanctions, earlier this month Potanin was forced to resign from the board of the Guggenheim Foundation in New York, with the museum saying in a statement 'the Guggenheim strongly condemns the Russian invasion and unprovoked war against the government and people of Ukraine.'
Bloomberg's index estimates the the impact of sanctions on Russian businesses and the country's economy has so far seen Potanin lose just under 25% of his wealth since the start of the invasion almost one month ago.
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