Oleg Tinkov, who founded one of Russia's largest banks, told The New York Times this week that he was forced into a "desperate sale" that he compared to a hostage situation.
Tinkov released a statement on Instagram last month criticizing the war in Ukraine. The day after he made the post, according to Tinkov, executives at Tinkoff Bank were contacted by Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration who threatened to nationalize the bank if he didn't agree to sell his shares in its parent company, TCS Group Holdings, to a Russian mining billionaire.
Tinkov told the Times that this was a "desperate sale, a fire sale," that he was forced into.
"I couldn't discuss the price," he said. "It was like a hostage — you take what you are offered. I couldn't negotiate."
Tinkov also told the newspaper that he has since hired bodyguards after some friends of his with connections to Russian security services warned him to fear for his life.
"I've realized that Russia, as a country, no longer exists," Tinkov said, adding that he thinks Putin will remain in power for the foreseeable future. "I believed that the Putin regime was bad. But of course, I had no idea that it would take on such [a] catastrophic scale."
The Times notes that the Kremlin did not respond to a request for comment.
Tinkoff Bank denied Tinkov's characterization of the sale, saying that there have been "no threats of any kind against the bank's leadership."
The bank added that Tinkov "has not been in Moscow for many years, did not participate in the life of the company, and was not involved in any matters."
Tinkov was recently sanctioned by Great Britain as part of a series of sanctions against Russian business leaders. He also previously agreed to pay over $500 million to settle a U.S. tax fraud case.
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