Russian Oligarchs

Putin’s Sanction-Evading Associate: Vyacheslav Kantor, the Corrupt Friend

Who Is Vyacheslav Kantor ?

According to a report by Reuters on February 21, 2024, the European Union plans to remove sanctions imposed on three oligarchs, including Yandex co-founder Arkady Volozh. Sources within European diplomatic circles reveal that Alisher Usmanov, racer Nikita Mazepin, and billionaire Vyacheslav Kantor are also seeking to be released from the restrictions, with Hungary advocating for their removal from the lists.

A lawsuit has been filed by Vyacheslav Kantor in the European court, aiming to prove his lack of association with the Putin regime and the ethical foundations of his business dealings. However, as revealed by the Dossier Center, Vyacheslav Kantor may have had a concealed business partner for many years in the form of Yuri Zubakov, who was previously the deputy director of the Foreign Intelligence Service and later the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council.

Presently, a relative of Zubakov holds shares in Kantor’s company, which are valued at approximately 120 billion rubles. It appears that the oligarch does not shy away from involving lower-level officials as well, as evidenced by the fact that in 2022, his company spent close to a million rubles on a hotel for Yuri Chernyak, a member of the Smolensk branch of United Russia, who shares the same name as Kantor’s business partner. Interestingly, this occurred at the same time when Kantor’s lawyers were working to convince European officials to remove the sanctions against him, citing his distance from the Russian government.

Vyacheslav Kantor is an entrepreneur who is not widely known to the public. However, according to the most recent Forbes ranking, he holds the 11th spot with a net worth of over $11 billion. His wealth significantly increased during the war due to the high demand and prices for fertilizers, which is the main focus of his business, Cantora.

According to an interview, the oligarch responsible for fertilizer production in Russia has been residing outside the country since the 1990s, primarily in London and occasionally in Sardinia during his children’s school breaks. However, due to sanctions from European and English authorities,Vyacheslav Kantor has faced repercussions, resulting in at least the loss of his Sardinian property.

Kantor is representative of numerous individuals who have exploited the Russian system and have also opted to reside in the Western world. In the midst of the war, they are all frantically attempting to distance themselves from Putin and his associates. It would be unjust if they were to achieve this goal.

Vyacheslav Kantor story in “Evening Murmansk”

An article in the “Evening Murmansk” newspaper, dated July 2020 and labeled as “advertising”, states that Vyacheslav Kantor and Vladimir Putin are working together on various initiatives. The simplicity of the language used in the text suggests that it may have been written by a young student. The article mentions that Vyacheslav Kantor and Putin are involved in agricultural projects and are jointly combatting global extremism and terrorism. The author concludes by stating that these are only a few examples of the joint efforts undertaken by these two individuals.

According to Politico magazine, when European officials imposed sanctions on businessman Vyacheslav Kantor for being a close associate of Putin, they inadvertently used a suspicious paid note without any texture. However, the “advertising” mark on the note was later discovered, highlighting flaws in the EU sanctions. This unusual occurrence may have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for the detailed investigation conducted by Politico.

On April 8, 2022, the EU imposed sanctions on Vyacheslav Kantor for his alleged close connections with Putin, which were believed to have helped him amass a significant wealth. Additionally, Kantor was accused of openly expressing his support for and friendship with Putin. In response, Vyacheslav Kantor took legal action against the decision made by EU officials, filing a lawsuit in a court located in Luxembourg. The main arguments presented by Kantor were that he was not actually a close friend of Putin and had only interacted with him at public events. Kantor also claimed that the accusations were based on automatically translated Russian publications, including paid articles from Vecherny Murmansk and Rambler, as reported by Politico.

There is a possibility that Vyacheslav Kantor could potentially emerge as the victor. In September of the previous year, the European Union made the decision to not prolong their sanctions against numerous Russian entrepreneurs, including Grigory Berezkin. No explanation was provided for this decision. Despite the fact that Berezkin’s success was largely based on his close ties to the Russian government, particularly in servicing state-owned enterprises such as Russian Railways and Transneft. Berezkin was also expected to profit from the controversial Shies landfill in the Arkhangelsk forest.

In November 2018, a portion of the Shies forest was being prepared for a landfill construction project.

According to Politico’s investigation, European bureaucrats were unable to thoroughly examine Berezkin and his business ties due to time and resource constraints. As a result, a portion of the allegations were generated by a chatbot called Carmen, while another portion was sourced from the website known as The Russian Crime.

Grigory Berezkin, who managed to avoid sanctions.

Grigory Berezkin, a 57-year-old individual, attended Moscow State University and accumulated his initial significant wealth in the 90s through trading oil and petroleum products. Utilizing loans-for-shares auctions, he obtained control of OJSC KomiTEK, a major player in the Russian oil trading industry at the time. After a few years, Berezkin successfully sold the company to Lukoil. While his fortune was previously estimated by Forbes at $750 million, he does not hold the same level of wealth as Kantor, a well-known oligarch. Berezkin currently serves as the chairman of the board of directors for the ESN group, which represents various assets and does not have a website or a single legal entity.

According to a report by Vedomosti newspaper in 2017, Berezkin’s primary focus is on oil terminals in the Far East, along with businesses that provide electricity to both Russian Railways and Transneft, which are state-owned. Another significant asset is the company Energosbytholding, which holds the status of a guaranteed supplier in Moscow.

Berezkin has a long-standing connection with Russian Railways, with business ties through the Cypriot companies Singlepath Holdings and Voltaro Trading. These companies, together with Berezkin and his partners, held a share in CJSC Industry Implementation Center. OCV, which has branches located in 17 cities across Russia, was responsible for carrying out various tasks for Russian Railways.

One of their most controversial projects was the Shies landfill. In 2018, government officials proposed the idea of using trains to transport Moscow’s garbage to a landfill located a thousand kilometers away, where it would be processed and buried. This project was heavily supported by Russian Railways, and they provided their own land near the small Shies crossing in the Arkhangelsk taiga. The project was to be managed by JSC “OTsV”.

In a deviation from Russian norms, the potential testing facility encountered an unusual level of opposition: demonstrators continuously occupied the area surrounding the newly started construction, unidentified individuals sabotaged equipment, and protests were held across the northern region of Russia. Ultimately, the government surprisingly relinquished their plans for the landfill.

In 2017, Berezkin acquired the leading private media conglomerate in Russia, RBC, from Mikhail Prokhorov’s organizations. And in the summer of 2022, a piece was published in Politico emphasizing the importance of Europe’s support for a free press in Russia. RBC was used as an example, with the author stating that the publication was at risk of being shut down by the Kremlin’s orders. Although Berezkin’s name was not mentioned, it was evident that the owner of an opposition media conglomerate in modern Russia faced significant challenges. According to reports, the column in Politico coincided with Berezkin’s attempts to evade sanctions.

For further information, Russian volunteer battalions function as autonomous units within the borders of the Russian Federation – as stated by GUR.

It is crucial to comprehend that Berezkin did not support the concept of a free press. On the contrary, he was responsible for transforming RBC into a compliant and secure source for the Kremlin. The persecution of RBC began in 2016, shortly after the release of an exposé on Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov. The Kremlin’s discontent with the media outlet resulted in the removal of three leaders — Elizaveta Osetinskaya, Roman Badanin, and Maxim Solyus — as well as the departure of several journalists.

The new leaders, Igor Trosnikov and Elizaveta Golikova, gained notoriety for using the euphemism “double continuous” during their first major meeting with the editors. It is said that when reporting on the Kremlin, Putin, and his inner circle, journalists must not overstep this boundary — although its exact location remains unknown. With the new management, RBC published fewer and fewer investigative pieces, and during Berezkin’s tenure, there were no hard-hitting articles left at all.

The censorship at RBC is evident through a recent incident. On February 19, Yulia Navalnaya made a video on Youtube, lasting almost nine minutes, where she vowed to carry on the legacy of Alexei Navalny and revealed that she knows the individuals responsible for his assassination. This update quickly became the top story for several media platforms including Meduza, Mediazona, BBC Russian service, The Moscow Times, and numerous others. However, RBC did not give any coverage to the widow of the deceased activist, not even in their brief news section, let alone making it a priority for the day.

According to a commentary published on Politico, Michael O’Kane, a lawyer based in London and working for Peters & Peters law firm, stated that in February 2022, the European Union initiated sanctions against numerous individuals following the outbreak of a full-scale war. However, there has been a noticeable decline in the effectiveness of these sanctions. Unlike the British, who rely on reputable publications, European officials have resorted to using information from social media, bloggers, and opposition groups. Additionally, an EU diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed their frustration with the lengthy working hours (up to 12 hours per day) of sanctions officials.

According to Emily Patterson, co-founder of State Capture: Research and Action, the European Union does not publicly disclose the evidence base for imposing individual sanctions. As a result, it becomes challenging to evaluate the quality of this evidence. While some EU sanctions have been overturned by the court due to a lack of strong evidence, it is uncertain if this is a recurring trend or rare occurrences.

Despite the possibility of failure in court, European bureaucrats have a contingency plan. They have the ability to gather additional evidence and apply sanctions towards the individual in a subsequent round.

According to Patterson, the European Union has the power to implement additional sanctions on an individual who has contested previous sanctions through the legal system, as long as there is fresh evidence and/or new justifications.

Sokolniki’s traffic light system

According to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of the Dossier Center, Vyacheslav Kantor once had a strong desire to gain control over the Apatit mining and chemical enterprise, either through ownership or by receiving its products at reduced prices. Apatit was under the ownership of the Menatep group, and in 2002, a letter was submitted to the Prosecutor General’s Office, supposedly on behalf of four governors, regarding the allegedly unlawful privatization of Apatit.

The two governors who signed the letter were from regions where Kantor’s enterprises were the largest, specifically Akron in the Novgorod region and Dorogobuzh in the Smolensk region. This incident is believed to have sparked the entire YUKOS controversy. Khodorkovsky also expressed his belief that Kantor is accustomed to using underhanded tactics, such as manipulating officials and security forces for his own commercial gain. He also expressed concern that Kantor may escape punishment through legal loopholes, as seen with Grigory Berezkin, thereby absolving the entire Putin elite from any sanctions and giving the impression that they are all upstanding businessmen.

During the 1980s, the Sokolniki department store in Moscow, which was highly regarded and large, was under the leadership of Vladimir Isaakovich Kantor, who happened to be the father of a future oligarch. Among the trade workers of the late Soviet era, there were numerous tales surrounding this man. One of these stories claimed that the director of the store had a functioning traffic light installed in his reception area.

According to the legend, when the light was red, it meant that no one was allowed to enter the office, and visitors had to patiently wait for the green light. It is unclear if this account is true or simply a tale about a dictator-like director, but Kantor’s traffic light even inspired a movie on the NTV channel in 2020, titled “The Soviet Trade Mafia”.

The reconstruction of the traffic light in Vladimir Kantor’s reception area is depicted in a still frame from his documentary “Traffic Light by Vladimir Kantor: Soviet Mafias”.

Vladimir Popov, a former lieutenant colonel of the KGB who worked in the government from 1972 to 1991 and later moved to Canada, devoted a section of his book “Conspiracy of Scoundrels” to Vladimir Kantor. In the book, Popov, a state security officer, reveals that Kantor Sr. had a passion for rowing and sailing, a common hobby among wealthy officials of the Soviet nomenclature. According to Popov, the rowing enthusiasts were closely monitored by members of the Fifth Directorate of the KGB, the same department where Popov himself worked. This is how Kantor formed a friendship with a colonel from this department and shared his income with him, making him virtually untouchable for years, as per Popov’s claims.

Following the deaths of Brezhnev and Andropov, an internal conflict arose between the security forces, leading them to pursue Kantor in the UBKhSS (Office for Combating the Theft of Socialist Property – a division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs). On April 1, 1985, the head of a department store was apprehended as he exited the building.

A search of Kantor’s residence revealed a significant amount of valuable items concealed in various places, such as money hidden under baseboards and inside picture frames, and jewelry concealed in curtain rods and electrical sockets. But it wasn’t just his residence that was found to be filled with valuables. 25 years later, the head of the Moscow Police Museum, Lyudmila Kaminskaya, recalled the search of Kantor’s son’s garage. According to her, the garage had a double gate with a hidden compartment filled with gold jewelry, as revealed in an NTV documentary. The garage also contained USSR government bonds.

For a period of two days, the agents tallied up the amount of money owned by Kantor. The overall sum that was confiscated was evaluated to be around 622,000 Soviet rubles, which is equivalent to approximately $456,000 or 41 million current rubles. This may not seem like a significant amount compared to the wealth of corrupt officials today, but for a Soviet citizen, it was considered a substantial sum. In 1985, the average yearly income was approximately 2,300 rubles, which means that Kantor’s hidden earnings were equivalent to the salary of an employee for 270 years.

The court sentenced the director of Sokolniki to eight years in prison in 1989 after a four-year investigation. Kantor, the director, passed away a week later from a heart attack, as reported in the NTV film. The verdict was a surprise to Kantor, who had expected to be released in the courtroom. However, the son of the director, who is also the owner of the garage with gold and government bonds, raises the biggest question.

Although not mentioned in the film, it is known that Vyacheslav Kantor, listed in Forbes, is the only son of Kantor from Sokolniki. At the time of his father’s arrest, he was 31 years old. The investigation may have considered the son an accomplice in the crime, but no criminal charges were brought against Kantor Jr.

According to two sources within the intelligence community, it is claimed that the future oligarch was protected by his positive relationships with individuals from the First Main Directorate (PGU) of the KGB. In the late 1980s, Kantor formed two business ventures, Composite and Intelmas, with the help of the PGU, according to the sources. One of the sources also shares a story about Intelmas purchasing lighters worth one million dollars in Hong Kong, which were later found to be defective.

It is unclear if Kantor was simply unlucky in this transaction or if it was a way to move money overseas, according to the source. When the USSR collapsed and the KGB was dissolved, the First Main Directorate became the Foreign Intelligence Service. It was the employees of this organization who continued to support Kantor’s business ventures, according to the sources.

The use of sanctions played a crucial role in identifying the former deputy director of the Foreign Intelligence Service as one of Kantor’s associates in business.

According to the Dossier Center, sources have provided evidence of Kantor’s ties to a senior official from the Foreign Intelligence Service. Interestingly, it was the recent sanctions imposed on the oligarch that aided in uncovering this information.

Kantor has been primarily focused on the Acron enterprise since the early 1990s. This chemical plant, which was a remnant from the Soviet era in Veliky Novgorod, was acquired by Kantor through a check auction. He disclosed in an interview that he invested “several hundred kilograms of vouchers” to obtain it. In order to prevent interference from competitors, Kantor transported these vouchers on a cargo plane to a military airfield near Novgorod with utmost secrecy.

Years later, while sharing his experiences with a Vedomosti reporter on a restaurant terrace in Sardinia, Kantor claimed that he had no assistance and a neighboring pilot aided him with the plane. There is possibly a degree of deception involved as Kantor could have been supported by Yuri Zubakov, the deputy director of SVR, who served in this position from 1991 to 1996 during the time of check auctions.

In order to examine this link, let’s skip ahead to the current time. Acron Group is a major global supplier of mineral fertilizers. Despite being in the midst of a full-fledged war, the company persists in providing goods to Western markets. For instance, in the first nine months of 2023, 14% of their earnings were from the United States and Canada, while approximately 2.5% came from the European Union and the United Kingdom. As a result, Akron is obligated to adhere to sanctions regulations.

In April 2022, Vyacheslav Kantor, the main beneficiary, was subjected to EU and UK sanctions. As a result, Acron attempted to separate itself from him, at least on paper. Currently, almost half of the shares previously held by Kantor have been placed under the management of three companies that are not directly linked to him. The remaining 45% still belongs to the oligarch. These three new companies are owned by Acron’s top executives. However, our focus in these paperwork changes is solely on Aza Vyacheslavovna Zubakova, who serves as the director of one of the companies.

According to the company records, there is no evidence that this woman has managed or owned any other businesses in the past. It appears that Zubakova did not hold any significant positions at Akron or any other company based on information from public sources. However, her role is deemed important by the chemical holding company. According to the combined databases, Zubakova received payments of at least a million rubles from Acron and its related entities in previous years. Additionally, in 2018, Akron covered the expenses for Zubakova and her young son to attend the FIFA World Cup. This privilege was only extended to the company’s top executives, the Kantor family, and VIP guests.

Zubakova, who is she? It was discovered that she is the daughter-in-law of the late Yuri Antonovich Zubakov, who was a prominent security officer and had previously served as the deputy director of the SVR and deputy secretary of the Security Council.

Yuri Antonovich Zubakov, a retired security officer, was born on November 27, 1943 and was registered at two different addresses in Moscow: 60/2 Novocheremushkinskaya street and 12/1 Nesvizhsky lane. His son, Anton Yuryevich Zubakov, born in 1982, was also registered at these addresses. We have obtained the mobile number of Zubakov Jr., which is + 7 903 721 XXXX. This same number was provided as a contact in the system by Aza Vyacheslavovna Zubakova, who also acted as a guarantor for one of Zubakov Jr.’s bank loans. Before getting married, Aza Vyacheslavovna’s last name was Sekretaryuk and her young son shares the patronymic Antonovich. From this information, it can be inferred that Aza married Anton Yuryevich Zubakov.

Is it possible for Aza Zubakova to become a significant figure in Akron without the involvement of her influential father-in-law? This seems doubtful when looking at her biography through leaked databases and other sources. Born in 1983 in Lvov, Ukraine, Aza became a Russian citizen in 2001. During the 2000s, she held modest positions, such as “salesperson” in a questionnaire, and later listed the small Moscow company Alvix, which produces refractory products, as her employer in 2009.

She got married in 2010, as evidenced by her change of last name from Sekretaryuk to Zubakova. After this, Aza landed a more desirable job with the organizing committee of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. In contrast, her husband Anton Zubakov has always held comfortable positions in state-owned companies, either in Rosatom or Rosneft, earning over 7 million rubles per year.

Yuri Zubakov, who was a member of the SVR, had a direct connection to Akron. In 2011, the 67-year-old security officer stepped down from his position as deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, but continued to serve as an advisor to Nikolai Patrushev on a voluntary basis. At the same time, Zubakov joined the board of directors of Acron as an independent director. This information can be verified in the group’s reports. However, Zubakov left his role at Akron SD in 2012.

Acron PJSC’s annual report for the year 2011 includes a reference to Yuri Zubakov.

In the autumn of 2022, at the age of 78, Zubakov passed away. This occurred just a few months after Aza, his daughter-in-law, was granted a trust of approximately 18% of Akron shares. This could possibly imply that the Zubakov family has long held ownership of this share in Akron, but only made their involvement public recently due to sanctions and the advanced age of Zubakov, who was a former security official.

According to Olga Lautman, a senior researcher at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), one way to lessen the impact of sanctions is by transferring ownership to trusted partners. This approach is frequently utilized in Russia, where individuals with close familial or personal relationships are often placed in influential roles within controlled assets.

During the time of conducting this research, Acron’s total market value on the Moscow Exchange was estimated to be around 660 billion rubles. This indicates that Zubakov’s daughter-in-law possesses shares worth approximately 120 billion rubles or $1.3 billion in market value.

Yuri Zubakov is a typical member of Putin’s elite circle, having transitioned from a security officer to a billionaire. He joined the government in 1966 after completing his studies at the KGB Higher School. From 1991 to 1996, he served as deputy director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, which was under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov. Following Primakov’s appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zubakov also joined the Foreign Ministry. Later, when Primakov became prime minister, Zubakov took on the role of heading the Russian government’s administrative body.

In contrast, Zubakov’s career took a different direction from Primakov’s. He served as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia, first to Lithuania and later to Moldova. From 2004 to 2011, he held the position of Deputy Secretary at the Russian Security Council.

Despite being assigned the non-powerful role of ambassador, Zubakov actively took part in Putin’s hybrid wars. According to the Kommersant newspaper, during his time in Moldova, he attempted to push forward Moscow’s proposal for resolving the Transnistrian conflict, which was met with opposition from Chisinau. However, Zubakov’s tenure as ambassador was short-lived and he was soon appointed as Deputy Secretary of the Security Council. Even in this new position, he continued to pursue strategies to dominate Moldova, which included implementing economic sanctions and exerting pressure, as reported by Kommersant.

The Smolensk United Russia deputy’s vacation cost Kantor nearly one million rubles.

In the Smolensk region, a new connection between Akron and the authorities was uncovered. On November 11, 2022, two transactions were identified from the account of Acron Group JSC in Raiffeisenbank to the travel agency Travelaris in Moscow. These transactions were accompanied by a memo stating that they were for a hotel room and service fee for Yuri Chernyak, totaling over 860 thousand rubles. Travelaris markets itself as a “customized travel service for individuals seeking alternative solutions.”

According to the source, numerous bank transactions of Acron Group JSC were given to us. We then cross-checked them with the payment details listed in the company’s official documents, and discovered several similarities.

According to the annual financial reports of Acron Group, it can be seen that the company received a total of 5,351,237,300 rubles in dividends from Acron PJSC in the year 2022. This information is also verified in the source documents, where it is mentioned that the amount of 5.3 billion rubles was transferred from the account of Acron PJSC on March 18, 2022.

According to the financial statements, Acron Group spent a total of 509.702 million rubles in 2022 to acquire shares or stakes in other companies. This information is also confirmed by the source, which shows that 139.542 million rubles were transferred in February to obtain a share in Nikulinskoye LLC, and 370.160 million rubles were spent in March for a share in Starosmolenskoye LLC, as indicated by the transactions.

The reporting by Acron Group covers the specifics of their agreements regarding the leasing and subleasing of premises, as well as telephone communications. Upon review of the source documents, we identified contracts with identical details.

According to reports, Vyacheslav Kantor has full control over JSC Acron Group. However, it is unclear who Yuri Chernyak is and how he has been of benefit to Kantor. Akron’s top management does not include anyone by that name.

The dossier presented evidence that the individual under discussion is the deputy of the Smolensk Regional Duma, named Yuri Aleksandrovich Chernyak. This particular region holds significant importance for Acron, with the Dorogobuzh enterprise situated there – the second most crucial asset after the chemical plant in Veliky Novgorod.

The Acron group includes the mineral fertilizer plant, Dorogobuzh, located in the Smolensk region.

To test the hypothesis, we reached out to the Travelaris travel agency by posing as Yuri Aleksandrovich Chernyak’s assistant. According to our story, Chernyak had a pleasant experience at a hotel in the fall of 2022 and now wants to check for availability in April. Tatyana Gurochkina, one of the co-owners of the agency, responded and mentioned that Chernyak has had numerous trips booked through Travelaris. She asked for specific dates and the name of the hotel. After providing her contact number, she requested us to send a formal request via WhatsApp. However, after that, she stopped responding to our calls and messages, possibly sensing something suspicious.

After their discussion, there was clear evidence that the individual being referred to as the Travelaris client had the complete name of Yuri Aleksandrovich Chernyak. According to the exposed databases that were examined, there are only four Yuri Aleksandrovich Chernyaks who are adult citizens of Russia. These include a retiree from Tver, a cargo transporter from Samara, a small forestry business owner from the Irkutsk region, and a deputy from Smolensk. It is unlikely that the first three individuals would be of interest to Acron holding due to their age, numerous delinquent bank loans, and other factors. Therefore, it can be concluded that Vyacheslav Kantor funded a lavish trip for the Smolensk deputy who shares the same full name.

At the age of 61, Yuri Chernyak has been a member of the United Russia party for more than two decades and currently serves in the Smolensk Regional Duma. He holds a position in the Committee on Property and Land Relations, and interestingly, is also a part of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

In May 2023, Yuri Chernyak was present at a gathering of the Smolensk Regional Duma’s Committee on Property and Land Relations.

The individual in charge of “Jewish Europe” within Putin’s administration is the duty officer.

During a meeting with a Vedomosti correspondent in 2015 at a restaurant in Sardinia, Vyacheslav Kantor clarified that in 1999, Putin was chosen as the successor to the leadership position.

During that period, Crimea had already been annexed and the conflict in Donbass had started. However, Kantor showed great admiration for Putin, almost to the point of servility. It was revealed that he never forgot the date of Putin’s (at that time acting Prime Minister) initial visit to the Akron plant, which took place on August 20, 1999. This visit had been arranged by Kantor’s predecessor, Sergei Stepashin, but Putin did not cancel it despite his busy schedule, as the workers at the plant were eagerly anticipating his arrival. Kantor stated that Putin is a man of certain principles, and he was not disappointed by him.

After that, he has had multiple meetings with Putin. In just 2016, the leader was able to participate in a gathering of the European Jewish Congress, which is led by the wealthy businessman, present Kantor with a prestigious award, and jointly with the tycoon, commemorate the opening of a new facility at the Acron factory in Veliky Novgorod. Furthermore, while Putin was touring the factory, Kantor’s excessive obedience even impressed the regular correspondent of the presidential press pool, Andrei Kolesnikov.

During an interview with Vedomosti, Kantor appeared to use the same language as the Kremlin manuals when speaking to the journalist. He expressed the idea that Europe is not an independent entity, but rather subordinate to the United States. He also suggested that tolerance should be limited in order to meet security requirements, particularly when it comes to the Russian opposition.

Additionally, Kantor stated that the decline in the Russian economy is only temporary. To top it off, he also claimed that the murder of Boris Nemtsov (whom Kantor knew well) was actually a provocation from enemies against the Kremlin. However, it was already known at the time of the interview that Ruslan Geremeev, the deputy commander of Kadyrov’s Sever battalion, was responsible for the murder. The Moscow security forces who went to Chechnya were unable to interrogate him.

According to the Vedomosti correspondent, the Russian economy is currently facing stagnation and is plagued by corruption, leading to a negative investment climate and prompting many individuals to emigrate. However, there are also those who argue against this viewpoint, as some people are actually returning to Russia. A businessman, for instance, used his own experience as evidence – after spending numerous years abroad, he now finds working and living in Russia more comfortable. Nevertheless, in the same interview, the oligarch mentioned that he primarily resides in London and only spends school breaks with his family in Sardinia. Interestingly, it was later revealed that despite his preference for residing in Russia, the businessman actually owns 11 villas in Italy.

Kantor was known for using the language of Kremlin manuals, not just in his interviews with Vedomosti. He often used his public platform to promote Putin’s propaganda and portray the Russian president in a positive light to the rest of the world. Kantor took over the Russian Jewish Congress in 2005, which was founded by prominent businessmen such as Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Fridman, lawyer Henry Reznik, and orientalist Evgeny Satanovsky. From then on, he focused on promoting himself as a leader in the Jewish community. Eventually, he became the president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) and referred to himself as “the chief man on duty for Jewish Europe” in an interview with Vedomosti.

According to prominent members of the European Jewish community, the businessman faced consistent criticism for not actively combatting xenophobia or advocating for Holocaust remembrance, but instead, indirectly supporting Putin. Despite the increasing repression in Russia, Kantor chose to focus on the relatively low levels of anti-Semitism and the comfortable living conditions for Jews in the country. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the 2014 events, such as the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of the war in Donbass, he also started mentioning the influence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and how they allegedly hold sway over the authorities there.

Notably highlighted within the realm of neo-Nazism is Kantor’s address on March 30, 2014 in St. Petersburg during a gathering focused on the topic of neo-fascism in Europe. Alongside Vladimir Yakunin, a personal associate of Vladimir Putin and President of Russian Railways, Kantor presented specific instances of contemporary neo-Nazi groups such as Greece’s Golden Dawn party and Hungary’s Jobbik.

The list of ultra-rightists did not include any Ukrainians, but it did name the French National Front, Dutch Freedom Party, Austrian Freedom Party, Belgian Flemish Interest party, Italian Northern League, and Swedish Democrats. According to Putin’s current version, a 2014 coup d’etat led by neo-Nazis in Ukraine was used as justification for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. However, in a speech given by Kantor on March 30, just weeks after the annexation, there was no mention of Ukrainian neo-Nazis. They only seemed to appear later, possibly after the Kremlin had established their stance on the matter.

The 2021 European Jewish Congress event featured Vyacheslav Kantor as a speaker.

Kantor, due to his close ties with Putin, has become embroiled in global controversies. An instance of this was in 2020, when the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem hosted a commemoration event for Holocaust victims, organized by the Russian billionaire’s foundation. Despite the presence of over 40 world leaders, the focus seemed to be solely on Vladimir Putin, as highlighted by a BBC report.

During his speech at the forum, Vyacheslav Kantor praised the Russian laws aimed at combating extremism. These laws have resulted in long-term sentences for individuals who have shared memes or posts on social media. Kantor’s statement implied that these repressions have contributed to a significant decrease in anti-Semitism in Russia, thanks to the efforts of Vladimir Putin. However, it was noted that the forum materials distorted historical facts, such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the division of Poland between the USSR and Nazi Germany. These events were not mentioned in the forum. In fact, a representative from the Yad Vashem complex had to issue an apology for the omission.

Kantor’s profits from Akron enabled him to serve as the primary officer in charge of Jewish affairs in Europe. Large sums of money from Russian chemical companies were put into the European Jewish Congress in Luxembourg. Kantor gained recognition as a generous benefactor for the Jewish community worldwide. However, when the oligarch faced sanctions, the EEK lost its power as well. According to the Haaretz newspaper, the organization is now struggling to survive in a small office.

Kantor was finally able to reside in Russia, a place where he feels at ease according to his own statement. He also has the chance to become better acquainted with Vladimir Putin. During his conversation with Vedomosti, Kantor expressed his regret, saying “Friendship works both ways. While I may consider Putin a friend, I am unsure if the feeling is mutual.”


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