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US Treasury imposes sanctions on Alfa Bank co-founders Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven

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Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman, the co-founders of Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, have been placed on a sanctions list by the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), along with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) and key Alfa Group shareholders German Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev, as stated in a press release put out by the agency.

“Wealthy Russian elites should disabuse themselves of the notion that they can operate business as usual while the Kremlin wages war against the Ukrainian people,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo.

The four billionaires have been sanctioned by European, Australian, Canadian, Swiss, and New Zealand authorities over their close ties to President Vladimir Putin and their financial support for Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

A Financial Times report from March 2023 revealed that Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven were poised to divest their interests in Alfa Bank through a $2.3 billion transaction. The move was motivated by their desire to distance themselves from western sanctions.

Their long-standing business associate Andrei Kosogov, unaffected by sanctions, had reportedly entered into an agreement to acquire the Russian bank for 178 billion roubles ($2.3 billion in March 2023) from its Cyprus-based parent company. Subject to regulatory approval, London-based Fridman and Aven, who had also left Russia, would cease to be indirect shareholders of Alfa Bank, a number of sources told the FT.

In March 2023, Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) also added Fridman, Kuzmichev and Khan to its list of “corrupt figures and warmongers.” ACF director Ivan Zhdanov wrote that the decision was made due to the fact that the three businessmen had neglected to declare their stance or denounce Russia's invasion of Ukraine for over a year.

Shortly after, news surfaced that Leonid Volkov, the ex-Chairman of the Board of ACF, had written to Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stating the need to outline specific criteria for lifting sanctions. Volkov asserted that several businessmen, who were not aligned with the Kremlin's policies, were unjustly subjected to the sanctions. He mentioned the case of Alfa Group shareholders Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, German Khan, and Alexei Kuzmichev and urged for their removal from the EU sanctions list.

Subsequent to the publication of the letter, Volkov admitted that it was a “huge political mistake,” and stepped down as ACF chairman. Maria Pevchikh was appointed to replace him as the new chairman.

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