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Billionaire friends and associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin who were mentioned as part of the false Trump-Russia collusion narrative are pleading for peace with Ukraine amid stiff U.S. sanctions that are targeting their wealth.
The Washington Examiner reported Monday that Mikhail Fridman, a co-founder of Russia’s Alfa Bank, which was at the center of since debunked claims of having a secret backchannel connection to the Trump Organization during the 2016 presidential election cycle, is objecting to Putin’s war with Russia’s western neighbor.
Also, Oleg Deripaska, who had prior business relationships with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former British spy Christopher Steele and is accused of helping spread Russian government influence around the world, has begged for peace as well.
“The world is very important! Negotiations need to start as soon as possible!” Deripaska wrote on his Telegram page over the weekend.
Fridman, however, was much more direct and made his plea personal.
“I was born in Western Ukraine and lived there until I was 17. My parents are Ukrainian citizens and live in Lviv, my favorite city,” Fridman wrote in a weekend email to staff at his U.K. equity firm LetterOne. “But I have also spent much of my life as a citizen of Russia, building and growing businesses. I am deeply attached to Ukrainian and Russian peoples and see the current conflict as a tragedy for them both.”
He also said that the war was dividing two countries that shared many common bonds.
“I do not make political statements, I am a businessman with responsibilities to my many thousands of employees in Russia and Ukraine,” Fridman wrote. “I am convinced however that war can never be the answer. This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been brothers for hundreds of years. … While a solution seems frighteningly far off, I can only join those whose fervent desire is for the bloodshed to end.”
According to Forbes, Fridman is worth $13.4 billion and Deripaska worth $3.9 billion. The outlet noted last week that the more than 100 billionaires in Russia had lost more than $126 billion since mid-February, including $71 billion lost on Thursday alone, the day of the invasion.
The Washington Examiner continues:
Alfa Bank was sanctioned by the Biden administration on Thursday as part of sweeping U.S. financial sanctions against Russia.
Michael Sussmann, a Democratic cybersecurity lawyer, was indicted last year by special counsel John Durham for allegedly concealing his clients, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign, from the FBI in September 2016 when he pushed debunked claims of a secret backchannel between the bank and Trump. The bank has consistently denied the collusion allegations.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, and congressional investigations did not uncover any evidence that the backchannel claims were true.
On Monday, the European Union also sanctioned Russian oligarchs such as Fridman and his Alfa Bank co-founder, Petr Aven. The EU claims that Fridman “has managed to cultivate strong ties to the administration of Vladimir Putin, and has been referred to as a top Russian financier and enabler of Putin’s inner circle” and that Aven “is one of Vladimir Putin’s closest oligarchs.”
The EU also said that Fridman and Aven “actively supported materially or financially and benefited from Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Ukraine.”
Both men released a statement Monday saying they “are profoundly shocked by the demonstrably false and defamatory allegations made in the EU Regulation purporting to justify the basis on which we have been sanctioned” and “will contest the spurious and unfounded basis for the imposition of these sanctions.”
They also said that sanctioning them “will have no impact on Russia’s actions in Ukraine because Petr and Mikhail have no financial or political relationship with President Putin.”
The claims that Alfa Bank was tied to Trump became a focus of the campaign of Hillary Clinton in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.
Clinton tweeted about Alfa Bank on Oct. 31, 2013: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”
The tweet contained a lengthy statement from Jake Sullivan, then one of her top advisers and now President Biden’s national security adviser, who claimed that “we can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia.”