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Speaking out, Russian-Ukrainian oligarch Fridman urges end to bloodshed

Jewish billionaire appears to break with Putin, saying ‘war can never be the answer’ in letter to employees at private equity firm

Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman (right) leaves a press conference in Moscow, on June 16, 2008. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman (right) leaves a press conference in Moscow, on June 16, 2008. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

LONDON — Ukrainian-born financier and one of Russia’s richest men, Mikhail Fridman, has told employees at his private equity firm LetterOne that “war can never be the answer” and called for the “bloodshed” to end, the company said Sunday.

The billionaire Fridman, who divides his time between London and Moscow, is the first oligarch to speak out against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I do not make political statements, I am a businessman with responsibilities to my many thousands of employees in Russia and Ukraine,” Fridman said in a letter, whose contents were seen by The Financial Times and confirmed to AFP by a company spokesman.

“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,” he told staff at the firm, which has an office in London.

Fridman noted in the letter that he was born in western Ukraine, and that his parents still live in Lviv, which he called his “favorite city.”

Fridman co-founded Alfa-Bank, one of the largest private banks in Russia, in 1991.

Forbes estimates Fridman’s fortune at $15.5 billion, and The Sunday Times last year ranked him as Britain’s 11th-richest man.

Mikhail Fridman, chairman of the Genesis Prize, speaks during the award ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater, on June 18, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Fridman is a frequent giver to Jewish and Israeli causes, including the Genesis Prize Group, which he co-founded, and the Russian Jewish Congress.

He is one of a number of Jewish oligarchs funding a memorial to the approximately 33,000 Jews killed at the Babyn Yar ravine in Kyiv during World War II.

Fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich on Saturday handed over control of Chelsea Football Club to trustees of its charitable foundation, hinting that he fears his assets in Britain are about to be frozen as the government imposes sanctions on a “hit-list” of Kremlin-linked tycoons.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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