The fortunes of a host of high-profile Russian oligarchs caught in the economic fallout from the country's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has been riveting Western readers for over two months.
When Russia began its offensive on Feb. 24, a push began by global authorities to issue sanctions on anyone considered close to Russian president Vladimir Putin or known to have ties to the Kremlin.
That included a suite of businessmen who had profited from selling Russia's natural resources after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
It also swept up almost the entire Duma, Russia's parliament, and had wide-ranging implications across the ecosystem built around the ultra wealthy worldwide.
As the war has continued, those sanctions have gotten stiffer — and inevitably began chafing some of the billionaires who lost the majority of their known wealth.
Many of those oligarchs have stayed quiet about the change, however devastating to their bottom line, for reasons of either nationalism or a health respect for Putin's security services, or both.
But there has been the occasional outburst from banished billionaires being squeezed by international regulators and furious with Putin for putting so much commerce in jeopardy.
That's where Oleg Tinkov comes in.
Criticism of Putin's War
Tinkov made headlines on April 19 when he posted a Instagram screed deriding Putin's invasion of Ukraine and issuing a scathing assessment of the Russians who are backing the war.
In the post, which you can read (in Russian) here, he said that the country's army has been particularly hard hit by the disconnect between nationalism and active warfare.
"The (Russian) generals, waking up with a hangover, realized that they had a sh*t army," Tinkov wrote.
"And how could the army be good if everything else in the country is sh*t and mired in nepotism, sycophancy and servility?"
Oligarch Begs For Peace Without Disrespecting Putin
Tinkov also adds that most of the people in power or Kremlin-adjacent have been on board with Putin's "Z" campaign, which draws that letter around Russia to show support for the war.
But he called those who do "morons" who are out of touch with reality.
"Kremlin officials are shocked that neither they or their children will be off to the Mediterranean in the summer. Businessmen are trying to save the rest of their property," he said.
He said in the post that 90% of Russians are against the war, which has brought inconvenient sanctions to the nation, and called on Western leaders to find a way to end the conflict that does not embarrass Putin.
"Dear 'collective West' please give Mr. Putin a clear exit to save his face and stop this massacre," Tinkov said in English.
"Please be more rational and humanitarian."
'The Kremlin Will Kill Me'
Now, however, Tinkov is paying the price for speaking out.
In a conversation with the New York Times May 2, Tinkov said that he had heard from friends with ties to the Kremlin's security forces that his life was now in danger after criticizing the war effort.
He also said the Kremlin had told executives at the bank he founded that if he did not sever ties completely, the operation would be nationalized.
“They said: ‘The statement of your shareholder is not welcomed, and we will nationalize your bank if he doesn’t sell it and the owner doesn’t change, and if you don’t change the name,’” Tinkov said.
Assets Sold to Putin Crony
One of Putin's close friends, Vladimir Potanin, has now taken a 35% stake in the bank, TCS Group Holding. Potanin is a regular hockey buddy of the Russian president and a mining oligarch in his own right.
Tinkov told the paper that he is on the run in an undisclosed country and said that since he had already beaten leukemia several years ago, perhaps now “the Kremlin will kill me.”
“They told me: ‘The decision regarding you has been made,’” he said. “Whether that means that on top of everything they’re going to kill me, I don’t know. I don’t rule it out.”
Tinkov made most of his money after the fall of the Soviet Union, investing in mining operations and wholesale electronics, as well as guns, a variety of retail options, beer, a cycling team, credit cards and even a record label.
He formerly owned just over a third of TCS Group Holding but is no longer the chairman of Tinkoff Bank.
He is currently under sanctions in the United Kingdom. Tinkov was estimated to be worth around $8.2 billion in 2014, but as of 2022, that amount has reportedly dwindled to less than $1 billion.
"I don't see a single beneficiary of this crazy war! Innocent people and soldiers are dying," Tinkov said in the post.