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Saturday, July 2, 2022

What are Russian oligarchs and why do they have targets on their backs?

In his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cronies directly, telling them that the United States and its allies are coming to “seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets.”

The message underscored how much the ground is shifting beneath the well-heeled feet of Russia’s oligarchs, a class of businessmen who amassed their billions in personal wealth by leveraging their connections to the Kremlin in the 1990s carve-up of the former Soviet Union’s assets.

Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Western governments have sought to freeze the oligarchs’ overseas assets along with Putin’s, as well as prevent them from traveling. The goal is two-pronged: Sanctions act as both a punishment for Russia’s ruling class and a cudgel to try to force Putin to back down.

It’s safe to say the sanctions have, at…

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