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The Big Take

The End of the Oligarch Era Nears With Putin’s Miscalculation in Ukraine

Sanctions are punishing Russia’s wealthiest businesspeople—and the country’s leader—by bringing a cold, hard stop to 30 years of integration with the global economy.
Some of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs include (from bottom left) Petr Aven, Alexei Mordashov, Oleg Deripaska, Roman Abramovich, Mikhail Fridman, and Alisher Usmanov.

Some of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs include (from bottom left) Petr Aven, Alexei Mordashov, Oleg Deripaska, Roman Abramovich, Mikhail Fridman, and Alisher Usmanov.

Photo illustration: 731. Photos: Alamy; Getty; Zuma Press
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On the day Russia’s invasion began, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked in a video address: “What do we hear today? It’s not just rocket explosions, fighting, and the roar of aircraft. This is the sound of a new Iron Curtain lowering and closing Russia off from the civilized world.”

It’s the defining quote of our abrupt new world order. Many Kremlin watchers never thought Vladimir Putin would go this far—never thought a man known for winning calculated bets would invade and attempt to hold a country of more than 44 million people. But after 22 years in power, the Russian president may have finally overreached. His gamble has isolated his nation and could, some seasoned diplomats believe, eventually bring about the end of his regime.