Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he did not intend to destroy the country’s billionaires, which makes the fact that the number of Russian oligarchs grew during his second term seem not so ironic.
Russian news service RIA Novosti: “I never had it as my goal to destroy billionaires. If a person acquires considerable property and financial resources within the law, God grant him good health,” the former president said.
Putin vowed in the 2000 presidential election campaign that “oligarchs would cease to exist as a class” under his leadership. His first term saw the arrest of Russia’s then-richest man and Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky on fraud charges. Another prominent billionaire, Boris Berezovsky, once a trusted member of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s inner circle, was forced into exile.
Despite this, however, his second term as president saw the number of Russian billionaires triple to 110. In 2007, according to the business magazine Forbes, 14 of the world’s richest people were Russian. Their wealth was equal to approximately 26% of Russia’s GDP. In comparison, the wealth of the 39 richest American citizens was equal to a mere 4.6% of U.S. GDP.
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