Russian billionaire Prokhorov said to receive Israeli citizenship

Former owner of NBA’s Nets, listed as Russia’s 12th richest individual, considered a rival of Putin and has not been targeted by Western sanctions

Brooklyn Nets former owner Mikhail Prokhorov, of Russia, holds a news conference before an NBA basketball game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets in New York, April 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Brooklyn Nets former owner Mikhail Prokhorov, of Russia, holds a news conference before an NBA basketball game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets in New York, April 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has immigrated to Israel and received citizenship, according to a Monday report.

Prokhorov, 56, arrived in Israel several days ago on a private jet from Switzerland, according to Hebrew media reports.

The Ynet news site reported Monday that while he came on a tourist visa, he has since filed all the necessary paperwork to become a citizen under Israel’s Law of Return.

Prokhorov’s maternal grandmother, Anna Belkina, a prominent Russian microbiologist, was Jewish, making him eligible for Israeli citizenship.

Prokhorov, who is listed by Bloomberg as Russia’s 12th richest individual, with a net worth of $13.8 billion, has distanced himself from the Kremlin over the last decade, since running against Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency, though he has also maintained ties to Moscow.

He has not been sanctioned by the US, EU, or UK in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as other Russian oligarchs have been, over their ties to Putin.

Russian billionaire and then-presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov gestures while speaking during his meeting with voters in the Russian Academy of Science, in Moscow, Russia, February 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Despite claiming that he was never opposed to Putin, the two have been seen as rivals ever since his presidential run.

In 2016, Prokhorov’s media group Onexim published documents accusing Putin’s son-in-law of shady financial dealings, resulting in Russian tax authorities raiding the company’s offices, according to reports.

Prokhorov currently owns the largest gold producer in Russia and was the owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets basketball team between 2009 and 2019.

A report published by the New York Post last month claimed that Prokhorov had given up ownership over the team partly due to pressure from Putin. Citing unnamed sources, the report said that, as tensions between the US and Russia grew over the latter’s offensive in Crimea in 2014, the Russian president began pressuring Prokhorov to forego his ownership of the NBA franchise in order to test his loyalty.

Brooklyn Nets former owner Mikhail Prokhorov, center, speaks with reporters after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Barclays Center, the NBA basketball team’s new home in New York, September 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Western countries have applied crushing economic sanctions targeting Moscow’s financial institutions, including its central bank, shipping and trade industry, tech and aviation sectors, and the community of wealthy oligarchs and their circles.

Israel has avoided joining Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs, though Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has said Israel will not serve as a route to bypass sanctions.

Throughout the course of the war, Israel has walked a tightrope between Russia and Ukraine. There are Jewish communities in both nations and Russia maintains a heavy military presence in Syria, on Israel’s northern border, where the IDF is seeking to continue its aerial sorties against Iran-backed targets. This ostensibly neutral position has enabled Israel to assume the role of mediator between the two warring parties.

Among those sanctioned is Israeli-Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, Israel’s wealthiest citizen.

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