By Mykhailo Fedorov
May 11, 2022
The world remembered for long those who made SS uniforms, assembled tanks at their factories and made films about the greatness of the Reich. Now it’s time to know in person the international investors who have become sponsors of the Putin regime.
The war has been going on in Ukraine for more than two months now. Every day the evidence of the atrocities of Russian soldiers is becoming more obvious and more terrible. While Russian tanks and missiles are killing civilians, international companies and brands are cutting ties with the Russian Federation on a mass scale. After all, today working and paying taxes in Russia means to fund the Putin regime and to be responsible for the murder of Ukrainians.
Many entrepreneurs have reevaluated their relationship with Russia or are in the process of it now. They review portfolios, look for a Russian trace and get rid of it. These companies choose the side of “light” and bring the financial collapse of the war machine closer.
Everyone saw the results. The head of the Russian Central Bank, Ms. Nabiullina, is already saying that it is time to prepare for a new economic reality, to look for new business models. Moscow Mayor Sobyanin said that 200,000 people would be left without a job. A support fund for 3 billion rubles will be created for them. That’s up to $180 per person.
However, there are large global companies and brands that choose the side of “evil” in this war, and investors that continue to finance Russian companies, bypassing all sanctions and restictions. If they are counting on “riding out the storm,” I have bad news for them, as bankruptcies and asset nationalizations are becoming a common thing in Russia’s isolated dictatorial economy.
For example, Naspers, a publicly-traded company, is still a major shareholder in the largest ad platform, Avito. This is the Russian analogue of Craigslist. According to last year’s data, 120 transactions were made every minute on Avito. And this is 64 billion transactions per year. The head of Naspers is Dutch entrepreneur Bob Van Dijk, and the chairperson of the board is Jacobus Petrus Becker. And the list of shareholders includes BlackRock, Vanguard, Orbis, Fidelity, Norges Bank Investment Management and other well-known funds. Despite statements about the severance of legal relations, Naspers / Prosus remain the majority owners and continue to fully control Avito, and the accounting write-off of the value of the VK.ru social network asset does not mean the termination of ownership of it.
A stake of more than 10% in the recruiting company HeadHunter is owned by Los Angeles-based investment company Kayne Anderson Rudnick. And 9.5% of the shares of the social network VK.ru are still in the portfolio of the Chinese company Alibaba, which is owned by Jack Ma.
I will give a few examples of why these investors are also responsible for the war unleashed by Putin in Ukraine.
A few months before the Russian aggression, official announcements from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation began to appear on Avito and HeadHunter with a call to join the Russian army under a contract for large pay. They appear even now, which is not surprising, because during the 2 months of the war in Ukraine, the Russian army lost more than 20,000 of its soldiers. So, in the first three months of 2022, almost 7,000 adverts were published on Avito in the specialty “Serviceman under the contract.” For comparison, for the whole of last year there were about 8,300 of them. This fact is confirmed by a Bellingcat investigation.
In addition, trade in the stolen items of Ukrainians during the Russian invasion is a massive problem for Avito. Looting soldiers returning from Bucha and Irpin put up bloody, “trophy” items for sale, and in local VK.ru groups they ask questions such as how to legalize a car in Russia that was stolen in Ukraine.
At the same time, there are a great many groups on VK.ru where people are recruited not only into the official armed forces of the Russian Federation, but also into private military companies like Wagner. We are talking about the same mercenaries who are responsible for the downing of flight MH17 over the Donetsk region in 2014.
Thus, Avito, HeadHunter and VK.ru have become aggregators of human resources who go to kill Ukrainians. And their investors are the sponsors of the war.
The world remembered for long those who made SS uniforms, assembled tanks at their factories and made films about the greatness of the Reich. Likewise, the world will remember all the investors who are responsible for spreading the call to war in Ukraine, inciting hatred, selling racist symbols and legitimizing military annexation. Or investors in WeChat Pay and PayU, Naspers-linked online payment platforms that are still operating in Russia and building the economic infrastructure for war crimes.
For those who today want to finance Russia and build their business on the blood of Ukrainians, I have bad news – you are more and more likely to sink into oblivion along with the Russian economy.
After all, while the world is rushing forward and preparing to launch a rocket to Mars, Putin has turned his country into an old Soviet tank. Which, obviously, will die somewhere in a village near Sumy Region. Such is its destiny.
But you can still save yours. The choice is obvious, as between black and white. There are no more shades of gray.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister – Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine