UK removes sanctions on businessman Tinkov after Branson plea

By Alexander Marrow

(Reuters) -Britain removed sanctions on serial entrepreneur Oleg Tinkov on Thursday, days after an appeal by British billionaire Richard Branson and nine months after Tinkov, critical of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, renounced his Russian citizenship.

Britain sanctioned Tinkov, the founder of digital bank Tinkoff, a month after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, naming him as “a prominent Russian businessman” who had been involved in an area of strategic significance to the Russian government.

Tinkov contested that designation, routinely criticising Russia’s actions in Ukraine, offloading his stake in Tinkoff Bank and ultimately renouncing his Russian citizenship last October, saying he did not want to be associated with “fascism” or people who collaborate with “killers”.

“I decided to renounce my Russian citizenship after Russia invasion of independent Ukraine,” he wrote on Instagram in November. “I am against this war, and the killing of peaceful people.”

The British Treasury on Thursday said: “The following entry has been removed from the consolidated list and is no longer subject to an asset freeze or trust services sanctions.”

Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Virgin-founder Branson are among the high-profile figures to have come out in support of Tinkov.

The Times on Monday quoted Branson as writing: “I feel strongly that Mr Tinkov has been wrongly included on the list of sanctioned Russians.

“Whilst he was a wealthy Russian businessman he has never been an oligarch. I have always known him as a self-made dynamic entrepreneur. That is why I have liked and supported him and continue to do so.”

A spokesperson for the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said it keeps all sanctions designations under review.

“Having considered all of the factors in this case, including the actions Mr Tinkov has taken following his sanctions designation, we have revoked his designation,” the spokesperson said.

Law firm Corker Binning, which represented Tinkov, said it welcomed the decision.

Tinkov’s lawyers said his opposition to the invasion had led Russia’s government to force him into selling his 35% stake in Tinkoff-owner TCS Group to Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin.

The United States targeted 18 individuals and dozens of organisations, including Tinkoff Bank, in its latest Russia-related sanctions on Thursday.

Tinkoff had no immediate comment.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; additional reporting by William James;Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Angus MacSwan)