U.S. Targets Billionaire Associates of Putin in Crimea Sanctions

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Peter Cook reports on U.S. and Russia relations on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg Surveillance.” (Source: Bloomberg)

U.S. President Barack Obama imposed financial sanctions on several billionaire associates and top aides of President Vladimir Putin as he increased pressure on Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s reaction will be “reciprocal and swift” after Russia barred nine U.S. lawmakers and officials in retaliation against earlier measures.

The following is a list of those targeted. They are all now subject to travel bans and asset freezes.

*Gennady Timchenko:

Timchenko, 61, who has a fortune of $8.5 billion according to Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, became acquainted with Putin in the 1990s. He sold his entire 44 percent of Gunvor Group Ltd. to his business partner Torbjorn Tornqvist on March 19 to avoid disrupting operations. One of the largest commodity traders in the world, Gunvor had revenue of $93 billion in 2012. The U.S. Treasury said Putin is an investor in the trader and may have access to its funds, while Timchenko’s activities in the energy sector “have been directly linked to Putin.”

Gunvor said on its Twitter Inc. account that Putin has never had any ownership in it, beneficial or otherwise, as did Timchenko’s investment company, Volga Group. Peskov declined to comment on the allegations. Timchenko is a Finnish citizen and has a mansion on Lake Geneva. He restored his Russian citizenship in 2012 and began investing in the country after a U.S. investigation was opened into Gunvor over manipulating oil markets, fraud and money laundering. He owns 23.5 percent of OAO Novatek, Russia’s second largest gas producer, and 31.5 percent of OAO Sibur Holding, Russia’s largest chemicals maker.

*Arkady Rotenberg, Boris Rotenberg:

The brothers are business partners, each worth about $3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Arkady, 62, a boyhood friend and former judo partner of Putin, gained his fortune by selling pipes and building pipelines for state-run OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer. His companies were awarded more than 227 billion rubles ($6.3 billion) in contracts for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, according to figures compiled from corporate and government filings.

Arkady Rotenberg told the Financial Times in an interview published in November 2011 that while he values Putin’s friendship, he’d never abuse it for personal gain. Boris is 57. Andrei Baturin, spokesman for the Rotenbergs’ Stroygazmontazh, declined to comment immediately.

*Yury Kovalchuk:

Kovalchuk, 62, is worth $1.16 billion according to CEO magazine. He’s the largest shareholder in Bank Rossiya, sanctioned today by the U.S. Treasury, which described Kovalchuk as a personal banker for Putin and other senior Russian officials. Bank Rossiya controls Sogaz, one of the largest Russian insurance companies, which is headed by the son of Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov. Kovalchuk controls National Media Group, which owns television assets including one of Russia’s two biggest channels, Channel One, and the Izvestia newspaper.

* Vladimir Yakunin:

Yakunin, 65, and Putin have been residents of the same elite dacha development outside St. Petersburg since the 1990s. Yakunin has headed OAO Russian Railways, the state-owned rail monopoly, since 2005. He was one of the founders of Bank Rossiya, more than two decades, with Kovalchuk and Andrey Fursenko, 64, an aide to Putin who is also on the sanctions list. Yakunin said by phone that he’s honored to be on the list as “an affirmation that I have done something useful for my country and my president”

*Sergei Ivanov:

Ivanov, 61, is a former KGB colleague of Putin who is now the president’s chief of staff, he served as defense minister from 2001 until 2007, when he was appointed first deputy prime minister. Seen as a potential successor to Putin, he was passed over for Dmitry Medvedev, and was deputy prime minister during most of Medvedev’s 2008-2012 presidency.

*Viktor Ivanov:

Ivanov, 63, is a former KGB colleague of Putin who now heads the Federal Drug Control Service.

*Sergei Naryshkin:

Naryshkin, 59, is speaker of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma and senior member of ruling United Russia party. He was Kremlin chief of staff from 2008 to 2011.

*Alexei Gromov:

Gromov, 53, is first deputy Kremlin chief of staff in charge of media policy and a former Putin spokesman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net Torrey Clark

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