European Jewish Congress head on US Treasury’s ‘Putin list’

Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, a Russian billionaire, is reportedly "close to the Kremlin" according to a report released by the US Treasury Department.

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January 31, 2018 12:54
2 minute read.
Russian billionaire Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor

Russian billionaire Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

European Jewish Congress president Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor was among 96 businesspeople and 114 senior political figures alleged to have close ties to the Kremlin, on a list the US Treasury Department released this week.

The names were placed on what has been dubbed the “Putin list” or “oligarchs list,” as part of a US sanctions package signed into law in August. It does not mean those included will be subject to sanctions, but it does cast a shadow of potential sanctions risk over a wide circle of wealthy Russians.

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Several media outlets have pointed out the resemblance to part of the Forbes “2017 world’s billionaires list,” with the magazine running a headline: “Treasury Department’s Russia Oligarchs List is Copied from Forbes.”

In an emailed statement to Forbes, a Treasury spokesman said the unclassified report was derived from open sources, including Forbes.

“There is not a statutory or regulatory definition of oligarch, so Treasury included the $1 billion threshold as a reasonable number, which is similar to criteria contained in the US Forbes list,” Forbes quoted the spokesman as saying.

Forbes estimated Kantor’s net worth at US $3.8b., making him the 34th-richest person in Russia and the 630th-richest person in the world. He heads the publicly traded Acron Group, one of the world’s leading producers and distributors of mineral fertilizer.

He has served as the president of the European Jewish Congress since 2007, and in 2016 was described by The Jerusalem Post as being “probably the most influential Jewish leader in Europe today” as part of the Post’s annual “50 most influential Jews” list.

The US list also includes Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich and Eugene Kaspersky, the co-founder and CEO of IT security company Kaspersky Labs. The latter tweeted: “I believe the people behind the list don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘oligarch,’ otherwise they wouldn’t include me and other successful businessmen with no ties to the government.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the release of the list was an unfriendly act but that Moscow did not currently plan to retaliate.

“It is, of course, an unfriendly act. It will complicate the difficult situation Russian-American relations are already in, and of course harm international relations as a whole,” he said.

Speaking at a meeting with election campaign officials in Moscow, Putin said it was “stupid” to treat Russia in the same way that North Korea and Iran are treated, while also asking Moscow to help broker a peace deal on the Korean Peninsula.

But the Russian leader said he still wanted to improve ties with the United States and would refrain from any immediate retaliation.

“We were waiting for this list and, I will not hide it, were ready to take retaliatory steps, serious ones, which would have reduced our relations to zero,” Putin said.

“For now, we will refrain from these steps. But we will carefully watch how the situation develops.”

Reuters contributed to this report.


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