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Will Russian Oligarchs Turn On Putin? One Did-- But He's A Criminal Who Lives In The U.S.

On Nicole Sandler's show yesterday, I referred to Putin as a plutocrat. It isn't wrong, but I meant to say kleptocrat. Maybe autocrat would have been the best description. Oligarch? Definitions of each from the

  • Autocrat- "an absolute ruler, especially a monarch who holds and exercises the powers of government as by inherent right, not subject to restrictions."

  • Kleptocrat- "a government official who is a thief or exploiter."

  • Plutocracy- "a government or state in which the wealthy class rules."

  • Oligarchy- "a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few."

OK... now that we have that straight, Alex Konanykhin, a Russian oligarch put a million dollar bounty on Putin's head. Over a photo of Putin with the caption, "Wanted: Dead or Alive. Vladimir Putin for mass murder," he wrote "I promise to pay $1,000,000 to the officer(s) who, complying with their constitutional duty, arrest(s) Putin as a war criminal under Russian and international laws. Putin is not the Russian president as he came to power as the result of a special operation of blowing up apartment buildings in Russia, then violated the Constitution by eliminating free elections and murdering his opponents. As an ethnic Russian and a Russia citizen, I see it as my moral duty to facilitate the denazification of Russia. I will continue my assistance to Ukraine in its heroic efforts to withstand the onslaught of Putin’s Orda (horde)."

Graeme Massie, reporting for The Independent, wrote that "Konanykhin has a complicated history with the Russian government, and in 1996 was arrested while living in the US after Russian authorities claimed he had embezzled $8 million from the Russian Exchange Bank. FBI agents testified that the Russian mafia had taken out a contract on Konanykhin, and the case was settled and he was granted political asylum. His asylum was revoked several years later, but his deportation was eventually cancelled by US District Judge T S Ellis, who overruled it, who said that a decision to return him to Moscow 'stinks'."

Konanykhin’s reference to blowing up buildings relates to a conspiracy theory that the Russian intelligence service, the FSB-- which Putin was head of from 1998 to 1999-- was responsible for explosions in four apartment blocks in 1999 which killed about 300 people. The attacks, blamed on Chechen terrorists, helped spark the Second Chechen War, which itself helped consolidate Mr Putin’s popularity in Russia. He became prime minister in 1999 and was named acting president on the last day of the year, subsequently being elected to a full term the following March.
The theory was expounded among others by former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was assassinated in London in 2006-- apparently by Russian agents-- using the radioactive isotope polonium-210.

I don't know Konanykhin’s net worth, nor how much he lost as a result of the crackdown on Russian oligarchs but yesterday reported that "Russia’s top billionaires have lost more than $80 billion in wealth in recent weeks, with more to come as sanctions and seizures start to bite. The economic turmoil surrounding Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has erased about a third of the wealth of Russia’s 20 richest billionaires in recent weeks, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The impact of sanctions on oligarchs, along with the collapse of the Russian ruble and economy and global outrage over Ukraine, have swiftly brought the end of an era for an entire class of Russian elites around the world.

The biggest loser in dollar terms is Gennady Timchenko, who controls Volga Group and saw his fortune fall from $22 billion to $11 billion. Leonid Mikhelson, CEO of Russian gas company Novatek, lost $10.5 billion, leaving him with $22 billion.
Other big losers include Alexei Mordashov, a Russian mining magnate, who was sanctioned by the EU and saw his fortune drop by $5.6 billion to $22 billion. According to Forbes, at least 12 Russians have fallen off the billionaire’s list in recent weeks.

Yesterday, the Patriotic Millionaires reminded their supporters that "These oligarchs, a small group of extremely wealthy (and infamously corrupt) individuals that have strong ties to Putin and the Russian government, are the target of a new task force of the US Justice Department called 'KleptoCapture,' which will attempt to confiscate their 'ill-begotten gains' as President Biden put it in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. We believe these Russian oligarchs should be held accountable for the damage they have caused the people of Ukraine and Russia. But democracy isn’t just under attack from Russian oligarchs."

The US has oligarchs of its own, and they are no less dangerous to our way of life. They have used their wealth to accumulate vast amounts of political power, and with that power, they rigged our economy and brought our democracy to its knees.
The federal government’s active work against Russian oligarchs in the last few days has shown us that we have the tools to hold these dangerous billionaires accountable and to both track and take possession of assets they wish to hide from the government (for tax purposes or otherwise). We just need the political will to do so."

Now let's watch Bernie's speech on the Senate floor excoriating American oligarchs for accumulating immense fortunes while millions of Americans struggle to pay the rent and feed their families. "In the 1950s, when I was growing up, CEOs did very, very well," he said. "They made 20 times more than their average worker. Well, if you are a CEO, the good news is those days are long gone, when you only made 20 times more than your average workers. Today, as I am sure the CEOs of this country know, they are now making 350 times more than what the average worker in America makes. Three hundred and fifty times more. Talk about greed!"

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