Russian Oligarch Admits War Is Hurting Russia in Rare Break With Putin

In a rare break from the Russian president, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska warned this week that Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine could be a "colossal mistake" for Russia.

When Putin ordered the invasion in late February, the Kremlin anticipated a quick victory but was met with surprisingly strong resistance from Ukrainian defenders. More than four months later, Russian progress has largely stalled, with fighting largely concentrated in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has faced a sharp rebuke from the West because of the invasion. World leaders have issued sanctions against Russian goods and oligarchs, devastating the country's economy. Economists have warned that the economic fallout from the conflict could devastate Russia's economy for years, though Moscow has dismissed the impact of Western sanctions, arguing they have done more to hurt the U.S. economy than Russia.

Deripaska, in remarks to reporters on Tuesday, said it was "obvious" that Western sanctions were having more of a negative effect on Russia than on Europe. Deripaska, who founded the Russian aluminum company Rusal, has been a target of Western sanctions himself, Reuters reported.

Russia-Ukraine war hurting Moscow: Oligarch Oleg Deripaska
Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska warned that Russia’s war with Ukraine would be a “colossal mistake” as the nation continues to deal with the economic impact of Western sanctions. Pictured, Deripaska is seen in Moscow on October 21, 2009. Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images

Deripaska voiced his concern that even if Russia eventually wins the war, the consequences of these sanctions could set Russia's economy back decades.

"I'm troubled by how quickly we abandoned everything that was achieved (economically) in the 90s, then we abandoned everything that we achieved in the 2000s, and now we are sitting and waiting for victory. Victory of what? Whose victory?" Deripaska said.

Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian leaders privatized their economy and built diplomatic ties with other European nations, which Deripaska said allowed Russia's economy to thrive in recent years—but that "prosperity" is now at risk due to the war, he said.

"I think that destroying Ukraine would be a colossal mistake, including for us," he said, Reuters reported.

Even though the Russian government has cracked down on dissent in the months following the invasion, some oligarchs and Putin allies have offered some criticisms of the war.

In a Telegram post in February, Deripaska called for peace talks between the two nations to begin as quickly as possible, adding that "peace is very important." Deripaska was first targeted with United States sanctions in 2018 over Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Some other oligarchs have also spoken out against the war. Oleg Tinkov, the billionaire who founded Tinkoff Bank in 2006, said in a New York Times interview in May that Russia has "slipped into archaism, paternalism and servility." He also said he has hired bodyguards out of concern that speaking out could cost him his life.