Russian oligarch Moshe Kantor, a leader of Jewish organizations including the influential European Jewish Congress, was hit with sanctions on Wednesday by the United Kingdom.
“Our latest wave of measures will bring an end to the UK’s imports of Russian energy and sanction yet more individuals and businesses, decimating Putin’s war machine,” announced UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “Together with our allies, we are showing the Russian elite that they cannot wash their hands of the atrocities committed on Putin’s orders. We will not rest until Ukraine prevails.”
The British government said that Kantor was sanctioned because he is the largest shareholder of the fertilizer company Acron, which has “vital strategic significance for the Russian government.”
Truss said that Kantor’s company and others are used by Putin to “prop up his war economy.”
The European Jewish Congress said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked and appalled by the decision today of the British government to sanction Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, the World Holocaust Forum Foundation and the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation. The decision is misguided and lacks any factual or evidence-based merit.
“Dr. Kantor is a British citizen who has lived for over three decades in Western Europe, many years of which has been in the UK. He is a long-standing and respected Jewish leader, who has dedicated his life to the security and well-being of Europe’s Jewish communities and the fight against antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.
“In recognition of this life work on behalf of Jewish communities and his efforts to instill greater tolerance and reconciliation in Europe and beyond, Dr. Kantor has been granted the most prestigious awards and honors from many European heads of state and government. We call for this decision to be reversed as soon as possible.”
Kantor’s battle against antisemitism has won him numerous awards from European heads of state, including the French Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor (2014), and the Italian Knight’s Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (2013).
Considered one of the most influential and powerful Jews in Europe, he is a senior lay leader in a large number of Jewish organizations. He is also a major donor to Yad Vashem.
Kantor resides in the UK and has spoken in recent years about his children suffering from antisemitism as students in the UK school system. He is involved in the local Jewish community of the UK, and serves as vice president of the Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella organization.
Forbes estimated Kantor’s net worth in 2021 at $7.6 billion, making him the 630th richest person in the world.
In 2020, Kantor put together a gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.
Dozens of world leaders traveled to Jerusalem for the event – among them former vice president Mike Pence, French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin – and many spoke about the need to forever stand against antisemitism around the world. The host, former president Reuven Rivlin, called it a “historic occasion not only for Israel, but for humanity.”
Yet not everyone was happy about Rivlin and the Israeli government agreeing that Kantor should have been the main sponsor and partner of the event.
In a Haaretz op-ed, reporter Ofer Aderet called on Yad Vashem to “clarify to the public the nature of the ties between the Putin associate, who funded the event, and its content that served the Russian narrative.”
Deborah Lipstadt, a prominent Holocaust scholar from Emory University in Atlanta and now US Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism told The Times of Israel that she was “absolutely heartbroken that Yad Vashem, which has such a stellar reputation and stayed above the political fray, should have become part of this politicization of history.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda pulled out of the event because he was not invited to speak. Former Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda also pulled out in solidarity with Poland.
Kantor was seen with Putin numerous times during the events.
JTA contributed to this report.