'We Don't Know How to Survive'—Russian Oligarch Sanctioned Over Ukraine War

Petr Aven, a Russian billionaire sanctioned by the U.K. over the Ukraine war, isn't sure if he will be able to pay his basic bills from now on.

His wife has been visiting cash machines around London, where the couple and their eight-year-old son live, to withdraw as much cash as she can to prepare for what lies ahead.

"We don't understand how to survive," Aven, 67, told the Financial Times. "Our business is completely destroyed. Everything which we were building for 30 years is now completely ruined. And we have to somehow start a new life."

"Will l be allowed to have a cleaner, or a driver? I don't drive a car," he said. "Maybe my stepdaughter will drive."

Social media users reacting to the FT article about Aven had little sympathy for his plight compared with the suffering and devastation wrought by the Ukraine invasion. However, his comments give an insight into how sanctioned Russians are coping.

The British Foreign Office named Aven on a list of sanctioned Russians and entities over ties with President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine. These include Ex-President Dmitry Medvedev, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Seizing Assets

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on March 15 that "major oligarchs" would also be a target and that "we are holding them to account for their complicity in Russia's crimes in Ukraine." The U.K joined with the U.S. in imposing the measures on Russia's elite, many of whom have had their assets seized.

The Foreign Office said Aven was worth an estimated £4 billion ($5.3 billion), but now his British bank accounts and assets have been frozen. So has his stake in LetterOne, an investment group co-owned by Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, who are Russian businessmen also sanctioned.

Aven held a number of roles as a businessman and politician in Russia, and he has been accused by the European Union and the U.K. of being close to Putin as a director of Moscow-based Alfa-Bank.

But he told FT part of doing business in Russia was dealing with Putin and this didn't mean that he had close ties to the Kremlin, saying it was "strange, just to be sanctioned because you meet the president."

"We try to be absolutely out of politics," he said. "With Putin I was presenting Alfa Group, not myself at all." He said the sanctions against prominent Russians are "understandable," but "not fair" and will have no effect. However, he added, "I don't complain when people are dying."

The newspaper reported that a lot of the wealth of Aven and his business partners came from oil investments in the 1990s and the proceeds from divesting a stake in oil company TNK-BP to state energy giant Rosneft.

Aven and his partners have stakes in Alfa-Bank, which is now under Western debt-financing restrictions. He has stepped down as president.

As a Latvian passport holder, he has travel options, but he faces an expulsion order from the U.K. within three weeks, which would uproot his family.

He can't access funds for his legal fight and lawyers in London don't want to deal with Russians. He said that if he leaves the U.K. "I will never be able to come back."

Newsweek has contacted the Foreign Office for comment.

 Petr Aven, Vladimir Putin in 2005
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) is pictured in 2005 with Petr Aven, the former head of the Moscow-based Alpha Bank after awarding him with Order of Merit to the Fatherland. Aven has been sanctioned over Putin's invasion of Ukraine. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/Getty Images