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The Enemy Within: Why Zelensky Must Take On Ukraine's Oligarchs To Defeat Russia

Ukraine has long had an issue with oligarchs standing in the way of progress, and they have almost always been linked to the Kremlin. Now in the context of the war with Russia, President Zelensky has no choice but to tackle this problem.

When Volodymyr Zelensky was first elected president, he had two defining challenges, one from home and one from abroad: Russia’s continued aggression; taking on Ukraine’s oligarchs.

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Back then, it may have seemed like the domestic challenge was the more imposing of the two, with the deep-seated corruption and grip on power of his country’s own lineup of cynical multi-millionaires and billionaires. That all changed with Russia’s all-out invasion, and Zelensky has risen to the challenge of a war leader of historic proportions.

Yet over the past few weeks, accelerated by the close-up scrutiny of Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership, it seems that the dual challenges of Russian aggression and domestic corruption are ultimately bound together.

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Baden-Baden Postcard: Haven For Wealthy Russians Reduced To Tourist Ghost Town

For 200 years, the Black Forest spa town of Baden-Baden has been the destination of choice for Russian tourists, with oligarchs shopping in the luxury boutiques and buying up swathes of property. Now Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has changed all that and the town's once-bustling streets are empty.

BADEN-BADEN — Some idiot hung a bag of cartridges on the door of the hotel, receptionist Juri tells us. He says it happened one night towards the end of February, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. “It had live ammunition in it,” he adds, shaking his head as though he can hardly believe it.

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The perpetrator must have had insider knowledge of the hotel world because who else would know that a nondescript three-star hotel in the center of Baden-Baden, a popular tourist destination in southwest Germany, was owned by a Russian family? That is why Juri does not want us to use his full name here or that of the hotel.

When Russia invaded Ukraine five months ago, the “most Russian town in Germany” felt the impact straightaway. The spa took down its Russian flag, and the town hall started flying a Ukrainian one.

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Europe's "Freeze And Seize" Hits Russian Oligarchs For 12.5 Billion

According to the EU Commission, the amount of confiscated Russian assets has doubled since April, German daily Die Welt reveals, including yachts, real estate, artwork and more.

BRUSSELS — The European Union has made significant progress in sanctioning Russian oligarchs, nearly doubling the seizure and freezing of assets in the last month alone. So far, more than 12.5 billion euros worth of luxury yachts, helicopters, paintings, real estate property and other assets have been seized or frozen from people on sanctions lists for supporting Putin's war of aggression, a top EU official has told Die Welt.

The European Union has collected half of this amount since April alone. "The amount of frozen assets of Russian oligarchs has almost doubled from 6.7 billion euros in April to currently just over 12.5 billion euros," the European Commission spokesman for justice Christian Wiegand confirmed.

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Elon Musk Wants Twitter For The Big Data, Not The Free Speech

Oligarchs of the ‘Second Gilded Age’ in the like of Elon Musk are already able to influence the public's minds through media ownership. But getting a hand on Twitter means having access to its users' data and exploiting it for financial purposes.

During the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, and the early decades of the 20th century, U.S. captains of industry such as William Randolph Hearst and Jay Gould used their massive wealth to dominate facets of the economy, including the news media. They were, in many ways, prototype oligarchs — by the dictionary definition, “very rich business leaders with a great deal of political influence.”

Some have argued that the U.S. is in the midst of a Second Gilded Age defined — like the first — by vast wealth inequality, hyper-partisanship, xenophobia and a new crop of oligarchs using their vast wealth to purchase media and political influence.

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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ Should Ukrainian Refugee Kids Have Separate Classrooms?

April 2-3

  • That Russian casualty of war
  • France hunting oligarchs
  • A skateboarding bulldog
  • … and much more.
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Isabelle Couet, Gwénaëlle Barzic, Vincent-Xavier Morvan

Inside The French Hunt For Russian Oligarchs And Their Riches

Chalets in Courchevel, villas on the Cap d'Antibes peninsula, yachts and valuable paintings are in the sights of the Ministry of Economy’s task force. But in this game of cat and mouse through a maze of offshore companies, nominees and trusts, oligarchs are often one step ahead.

PARIS — “An exceptional stay in the mountains,” promises the Grand Coeur et Spa chalet, a 4-star Relais & Châteaux located at the bottom of the ski slopes in Méribel, in southeastern France. Its particularity: It is owned by the company Sogeco whose main shareholder is Elena Timchenko, wife of Gennady Timchenko. The billionaire is considered a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and as such, is registered on the European, American and British lists of frozen assets.

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“Gennady Timchenko is a long-time acquaintance of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and is broadly described as one of his confidants,” the European text says.

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Cameron Manley

Elite Exodus: Russians Escaping The War, And Its Consequences

Estimates are that more than 200,000 people have already crossed Russian borders since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine. It looks to be the start of a mass exodus of well-to-do and middle class Russians that could further decimate the economy.

ST. PETERSBURG — Lining up to board the 6:30 a.m. bus from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, all his future packed in a single suitcase, a young Russian explains why he’s chosen to leave his native land, using a brutal movie metaphor: “Someone in this country has put a contract out on my life.”

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The hitman in this plot is, of course, Vladimir Putin: Since the Russian President launched his invasion of Ukraine, a growing number of citizens back home have been grappling with the decision to stay or go.

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Vincent-Xavier Morvan

Oligarchs Au Revoir: Russia's War Drifts On To The French Riviera

The likely defection of Russian tourists this summer is clouding the prospects of tourism professionals in the South of France, whose activity is still recovering from the pandemic. An emblematic snapshot of the after-effects of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

NICE — “Barring a world war, the summer is looking pretty good. We already have a lot of reservations from Americans and Canadians...”

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Michel Tschann, owner of the Splendid Hotel in Nice and honorary president of the French Riviera hoteliers’ union, is trying to make the best of a bad situation. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine is likely to darken the skies for the local professionals, whose business was just starting up again after successive COVID-19 shutdowns.

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Laure Gautherin & Shaun Lavelle

Meet The Russian VIPs Defying Putin To Say No To War

Russian pop starts, artists and athletes are speaking out against the war in Ukraine, with some already suffering the consequences.

Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is proving more difficult than he envisaged on the battlefield. But since last Thursday's invasion, there are increasing signs of domestic anger of his attack of a neighboring country where many have friends and family.

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Grigory Kolganov

Golden Passports, Citizenship For Sale From Cyprus To The Caribbean

MOSCOW — ​Last month, the Interior Minister of Cyprus Constantinos Petrides announced the revocation of 26 "citizenships by investment" that had been granted before stricter criteria of this program was introduced in 2018. Though Petrides refused to name those who had lost their so-called "golden passports', Kommersant has recently revealed some of the names on the list, including Russian oligarchs Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Stolyarenko, Alexander Bondarenko, along with their respective wives and children. These oligarchs are under criminal investigations in their homeland.

The news is a reminder that this particular relationship is not an exclusive privilege of Cyprus, and Russians are hardly the only ones seeking out golden passports.

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The Hidden Truth In Russia's Opposition To Cyprus Bailout Deal

NICOSIA - The Cyprus Parliament's initial rejection of the terms of the European Union bailout plan is bad news for Russia.

The opposition to the required taxes on bank deposits means the risk is rising of a long-term freezing of corporate assets in Cyprus. Meanwhile new proposals for taxes on depositors in the island could erase major portions of existing deposits.

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With Putin's Help, BP May Team Up With Russian State To Explore Arctic For Oil



MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin is back in the middle of the oil business.

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