Sanctions on anti-war, Ukrainian individuals? Alex Ozhelskiy and Mikhail Fridman

Alexander Ozhelskiy, 22, son of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, posted a video address in which he says that he does not support the war in Ukraine and thinks the sanctions against him are unfair. Alexander states that he has participated in “pro-Ukrainian protests”.

Ozhelskiy is the co-founder and general director of Esef Direct Investments LLC, as well as a co-founder and director of Alliance Management Company LLC. He is also co-founder of Esef Development LLC and Esef Properties LLC.

His father, Ukrainian-born Mikhail Fridman (1964), is a co-founder of Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest non-state bank. He was hit with EU sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine. Following the sanctions, Fridman resigned from his Luxembourg holding company, LetterOne, and reduced his shareholding. LetterOne is a private international investment business headquartered in Luxembourg.

Fridman’s properties in London, including the $100 million Victorian-era Athlone House estate where he mostly lived, have been frozen by the U.K. (Forbes)

What makes the case of Alex and his father interesting from a sanctions standpoint is that neither one appears to be the intended target of sanctions. Western sanctions stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict are supposedly meant to punish Putin sympathizers and the Fridman family does not seem to fit this description. In a Bloomberg interview following the EU sanctions, Fridman described his own stance as anti-war, and observed that “EU doesn’t get how power actually works in Russia.”

On the day the invasion began, Fridman was in Moscow on a routine business trip. He quickly hightailed it back to London, where he spent the following days fielding frantic calls from Ukraine. He and his partners own one of the country’s biggest banks and hold a stake in its largest telecom operator, KyivStar. His message to his executives: Use as much company money as you need to ensure the safety of employees and their families. On Feb. 25, the day after Russian troops crossed into Ukraine, he sent a letter to his staff at LetterOne, later released to the public, decrying the conflict as a “tragedy” and saying “war can never be the answer.” For Fridman, it was a rare political statement, and he stopped short of directly criticizing Putin. Even so, he says that statement could make it dangerous for him to return to Russia. The following Monday, his charity organization, the Genesis Philanthropy Group, announced it would donate $10 million to Jewish organizations supporting refugees in Ukraine. (Bloomberg)

Additional Sources

MIKHAIL FRIDMAN Background Investigation on

Together with several partners he founded the Alfa Group Consortium in 1989, primarily focusing on computer trading and copy machine maintenance, expanding into imports and exports, trading commodities and importing consumer goods. Alfa-Bank was established in December 1990, and grew to be one of the largest private banks in Russia today. In 1997, Alfa Group Consortium together with Access Industries/Renova Group acquired the TNK Oil Company. In 2003, Alfa Group and its partners completed a deal with BP to form the 50/50 TNK–BP joint venture. Mikhail served as a CEO of TNK-BP until July 2012, when it was sold to Rosneft for 56 billion USD. L1 was established in 2013 to invest internationally in energy, telecoms and technology, and health. (Bruegel)