A Russian court has ordered the seizure of a luxury hotel complex owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
He is one of the few oligarchs to have criticized President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
The legal dispute, following an initial claim filed by a scientific and educational center under Putin’s patronage, predates the invasion and seemingly unrelated to Deripaska’s wary critique of the war, which he has called “madness”.
However, the court’s order to seize the $1 billion Imeretinskiy hotel complex and marina in Sochi came after the Kremlin asked Deripaska to stop criticizing the war, according to two people who are familiar with the case.
“The Kremlin asked him to calm down,” sources close to Deripaska said.
Deripaska has been under US sanctions since 2018 because of his ties to the Kremlin. But the metals magnate is the most prominent of the small number of Russian business leaders who have spoken out since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. “We need peace as soon as possible as we have already passed the point of no return,” he wrote on Twitter in March.
The Kremlin asked him to tone down his criticism that same month, according to another person close to the oligarch, and has since repeated that request at least once.
Metal magnate Oleg Deripaska has been under US sanctions since 2018 over his ties to President Vladimir Putin © Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
Many oligarchs are privately opposed to the war, though few have made public comments. Several have told the Financial Times they fear public disagreement with the Kremlin, citing fears of repercussions for them and their companies.
Yet Deripaska warned in June that “destroying Ukraine would be a colossal mistake,” even as he shunned personally criticizing Putin.
Two weeks later, the Sirius Federal Territory, a science, education and tourism cluster founded under Putin, filed three land disputes against RogSibAl, Deripaska’s company that owns the Imeretinskiy complex.
Putin’s decision in 2020 to grant Sirius the status of a federal territory – giving it its own government and budget – had effectively made it RogSibAl’s landlord. The science cluster and the hotel complex are adjacent to each other on the Black Sea coast.
Publicly available court documents seen by the FT show that the judge ruled in Sirius’s favor in September and evicted RogSibAl from his home, with a separate verdict the same month seizing all of his company’s real estate .
Sirius’ parent foundation, Talent and Success, is co-owned by Sergei Roldugin, a cellist friend of Putin’s who is godfather to the president’s daughter, Maria. Putin is chairman of the Supervisory Board of Talent and Success. The US described Roldugin as a “custodian” of Putin’s “offshore wealth” when it placed him under sanctions in June.
Elena Shmeleva, the director of Sirius, was a candidate for Putin’s party in last year’s elections, although she did not become a member of parliament. Television host Vladimir Pozner introduced Shmeleva in an interview last year by saying her “influence is mind-boggling. Ministers and the heads of big companies fly to Sochi at the first invitation to meet with her.”