A $1,000,000 bounty for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin was offered to military officers by Russian entrepreneur Alex Konanykhin in a post he published on social media this week, as Russia continued its invasion of Ukraine.
Wanted: Dead or Alive
"I promise to pay $1,000,000 to the officer(s) who, complying with their constitutional duty, arrest(s) Putin as a war criminal under Russian and international laws," wrote Konanykhin on LinkedIn. "Putin is not the Russian president as he came to power as the result of a special operation of blowing up apartment buildings in Russia, then violated the Constitution by eliminating free elections and murdering his opponents."
"As an ethnic Russian and a Russian citizen, I see it as my moral duty to facilitate the denazification of Russia. I will continue my assistance to Ukraine in its heroic efforts to withstand the onslaught of Putin's Orda," added the businessman. Orda is the Russian word for "horde," a predatory, plundering gang.
The post was accompanied by an image with a photo of Putin and the words "Wanted: Dead or alive. Vladimir Putin for mass murder."
Who is Alex Konanykhin?
Konanykhin has a turbulent history with the Russian government.
According to a 1996 article in The Washington Post, Konanykhin studied at the Moscow Physics and Technical Institute before abandoning his studies and opening a student construction cooperative. He then branched out into a number of other businesses, including banking, stocks and real estate.
By the age of 25, he had an empire of over 100 firms. By 1992, his companies were worth about $300 million. He was even a part of then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin's first delegation to Washington that year.
In 1996, while living in the US, Konanykhin and his wife were arrested by federal immigration agents on charges of violating the conditions of their American visas. The case was seemingly sparked after Russian authorities claimed that he embezzled $8 million from the Russian Exchange Bank in Moscow.
The case went on for weeks, with FBI agents testifying that the Russian mafia had taken out a contract on Konanykhin's life as well as a former KGB agent who testified that he had serious doubts about the charges filed against the oligarch.
During the trial, Konanykhin testified that some of his corporate aides at the Russian Exchange Bank began pressuring him for money and made threats, prompting him to move to Hungary, according to the Post. He claimed that he was then threatened with violence again, prompting him to flee to the Czech Republic and then to New York.
Konanykhin complained about the threats to Russian officials and even Yeltsin himself. At a certain point, authorities stopped investigating the threats and began investigating him instead, claiming he had illegally wired $8 million from the bank to his personal accounts overseas. Russian authorities claimed that his version of events was fake and aimed to slander his former employees.
A settlement was eventually reached and he was freed from detention and eventually granted political asylum. Just a few years later, however, the Board of Immigration Appeals revoked the political asylum and ordered that he be deported. Konanykhin and his wife attempted to flee to Canada but were arrested.
The deportation of the couple was cancelled following a number of emergency hearings after U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis found the decision unlawful, saying "I have the firm impression that it is the strong desire of people in the executive branch to return this man to Russia for what reason I cannot tell. It stinks," according a report by the Moscow Times. He was granted asylum again in 2007.
In 2011, he founded TransparentBusiness, which helps companies manage their remote workforce. He is also part of Unicorn Hunters, a show which allows unicorn founders to pitch to millions of investors around the world.
Natan Rothstein contributed to this report.