Longtime close associate of Alexei Navalny Leonid Volkov March 9 announcement to step down as Chairman of the Board of Directors of ACF International (Anti-Corruption Foundation). This happened after the former editor of Ekho Moskvy Alexei Venediktov, become the hero of the FBK investigation, published a collective appeal to the European Commission with a request to lift the sanctions against the co-owners of the Alfa group Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven. Volkov’s signature was also under the letter. When this became public knowledge, Volkov appointed this letter was a “big political mistake” and stated that he had signed the document in a personal capacity, without telling his colleagues, because he believed that “it is possible, by creating a precedent [снятия санкций]set off a chain reaction of public condemnations of the war and a split within the Russian elites.
March 14 in the British magazine The Economist came out of Volkov’s chronicle calling for “rethinking personal sanctions”. The former boss of the FBK repeated his idea there (he Express before the events involving Venediktov) that Western countries should change the mechanism of personal sanctions against Russian government and business officials.
Volkov urged the West to find a way out of sanctions. About the same as provided in the “sanctions list” of the FBK
“From the start of the war, the sanctions lists [Евросоюза] to hit about 1400 people. Among them are Russian deputies, members of the government, military, law enforcement and several oligarchs and propagandists. <…> And while some of these sanctions differ in detail, they have one thing in common: they have had no significant impact on Putin’s ability to continue his criminal war. They did not cause a split in the Russian elite and did not cause desertion. Instead, they help shore up support for the regime and encourage feedback of those facing sanctions are returning to Russia, where they have channeled their energy into saving their business,” Volkov wrote.
He explained this effect of the sanctions by the fact that it is impossible to get them lifted: “Inclusion on the sanctions list is a one-way ticket. Anyone who gets into it knows the only sure way out is to die. As a result, those sanctioned believe they have no choice but to stay on board Mr. Putin’s boat, even if it sinks.”
“Therefore, a reasonable sanctions policy should not consolidate Putin’s circle around him, but isolate the Russian president, weaken him and make him toxic,” Volkov continued. “Therefore, a fundamentally different approach to personal sanctions is needed. This would lead to a large expansion of the sanctions lists and offer their defendants a legally and politically acceptable exit from the sanctions.
According to him, the exact conditions for desanctification should be worked out by Western governments, but among these conditions should be “publicly severing ties with and condemning Putin’s regime, as well as transferring a significant part of its wealth to Ukraine at title of compensation. .”
Volkov said the approach he proposes is based on “real experience” – “sanctions listFBK, which the fund introduced in April 2022. It included people (there are now around seven thousand) who Navalny’s team said should face sanctions. Among them are “war organizers”, “propagandists”, “corrupt officials”, “public supporters of Putin”, “top federal officials”, “heads of state-owned enterprises”, etc.
“We add new people to our list every two weeks. But on several occasions, we also excluded people from our lists because they had denounced the war or left their functions in public companies. And although our sanctions, unlike those imposed by Western governments, have no legal effect and are designed to draw attention to and expose those we consider to be the perpetrators of Putin’s war, many people have taken concrete steps to get off our list by leaving state structures or condemning war,” Volkov told The Economist.
“Imagine what would happen if Western governments followed suit. Hundreds of people would have followed the exit that was open to them and would have greatly weakened Putin’s regime,” summed up the former FBK boss.
In total, about 40 people (out of seven thousand) were excluded from the FBK list. Since August 2022, only three people have been removed (because they died)
FBK published its “sanctions list” in April 2022 and started updating it from the beginning of May. “Medusa” studied reports on updates (now there are 23) and counted more than 40 people who were excluded from the list.
Most of them were removed in the first half of 2022. Most often either because of death, or for lack of grounds for registration on the list, or because they left the structures linked to the State and/ or condemned the war. It is unclear whether these departures and anti-war declarations were precisely related to the fact that people wanted to remove their names from the FBK list. But, judging by reports, at least two people on the list have reached out to Navalny’s team and helped narrow down that list. Both were eventually kicked out. Another member of the list is the French company Eutelsat, which, according to the FBK, “retransmits Russian propaganda via its satellites” – also came out of to contact the fund, seeking to remove their representatives from the list.
The inclusion of publicist Oleg Kashin in the list also caused a controversial reaction. This decision angered many independent media representatives. Journalist Yuri Dud asked a question about Kashin, the head of the FBK investigation department, Maria Pevchikh. Oleg Kashin is against war. <…> But at the same time, Oleg Kashin is a longtime FBK hater,” Dud described the situation. Pevchikh responded evasively, saying she “doesn’t read Kashin.” However, an explanation of why he was included in the list can be found on FBK’s website – the organization had to speak separately about this issue after a series of demands for Kashin’s removal from the list.
“With regard to public statements, we separately considered whether Oleg Kashin was fairly included in the list. Knowing that, since 2014, his anti-war publications have been interspersed with pro-war publications (here are some examples − A, two, three), we do not believe it is possible to reconsider the decision until Kashin issues a clear condemnation of the war and his earlier statements, “- declared funds in May 2022.
Kashin is still on the FBK’s “sanctions list”. At the same time, he directly and publicly expressed himself against war. He also has saidthat Vladimir Putin “declared war, of course, not so much on Ukraine as on the Russian Federation, literally derailing everything he had built for 20 years, everything that had been built before him 10 years in the 90s”.
One of the most strong stories of removal from this list happened in the summer of 2022, when deleted Alexander Kabakov and Artem Kukharenko, co-founders of NtechLab. It is one of the companies that developed facial recognition algorithms for Moscow authorities. With the help of these algorithms, the police apprehended the suspected criminals and opposition supporters.
Leonid Volkov explainthat the co-founders of NtechLab were excluded from the list because they left the company immediately after the start of the war, issued a statement condemning the aggression against Ukraine () and “so that the system [распознавания лиц] was more difficult to use.”
However, in October 2022, FBK income Kabakov and Kukharenko on the sanctions list. “Their exclusion has been widely discussed. The repentance of Kabakov and Kukharenko was not public enough, and the information they provided is of incomparable importance with their contribution to building a police state. We made a mistake, so we returned Kabakov and Kukharenko to the list and expect further action from them: open and unconditional condemnation of the war, repentance in cooperation with the Putin regime, as well as real actions who can repair the damage done to society,” explain Navalny’s associates.
From August to October 2022, only three people were excluded from the FBK list. They are all dead. Since October 2022, there have been no exceptions to the list.