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Behind enemy lines: The French Riviera still welcomes Russian politicians and oligarchs

EU sanctions require consensus among all member states, complicating their implementation. However, each individual country, France included, retains the freedom to institute national blacklists. Despite president Emmanuel Macron's recently assertive stance about the possibility of sending ground troops to Ukraine, his government continues to afford many Kremlin-connected members of Russia’s economic elite the privilege of living and doing business in France. The Insider highlights several prominent examples.

Content
  • Vladimir Evtushenkov, a Ministry of Defense supplier, with family residing near Nice

  • Suleiman Kerimov, a French Riviera senator

  • Victor Vekselberg — pumps in France, rockets in Russia

  • Daughter of Prikhodko, Son of Potanin

  • Vladimir Lisin and other criminal oligarchs

  • Rotenberg's mistress

  • Abramovich's children

  • A United Russia family

RU

Russia’s “elections” in March returned an official result of 88.48% support for Vladimir Putin. But while the president-for-live did suffer defeat at the polls in numerous precincts across Europe, where Russians in exile tend to harbor more oppositionist sentiments. At the embassy in Paris, for example, the incumbent garnered only 37% support. However, he still secured victory in the south of France, bringing in just over 50% of the vote at the Villefranche-sur-Mer Russian consulate, conveniently located steps from the sea on the French Riviera. This outcome was unsurprising, as the French Riviera has become a favored destination for many beneficiaries of Putin's personalistic regime. Despite evading European sanctions, they continue to luxuriate in the region's mild climate, channeling corrupt funds from Russia into French real estate and businesses.

Vladimir Evtushenkov, a Ministry of Defense supplier, with family residing near Nice

In 2022, fearing sanctions, Vladimir Evtushenkov transferred his shares in a variety of French companies to his wife, Natalia. Together with their daughter Tatyana — and with the help of a financial scheme involving the use of French companies SCI Kristine, SCI Petr, and SCI Umbto — the family owns three villas worth around 30 million euros in total. According to company documents, Evtushenkov's wife holds a Luxembourg passport, while his daughter holds a British one.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

The oligarch's family has settled in the prestigious resort of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a small cape near Nice.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Vladimir Evtushenkov at a meeting in the Kremlin
Vladimir Evtushenkov at a meeting in the Kremlin

In Russia, Evtushenkov has a significant military business presence. Together with the defense conglomerate Rostec, he owns the Element group, the largest producer of microelectronics in Russia. Among its entities is JSC NIIMA Progress, a crucial supplier of navigation systems to the Ministry of Defense. Element also supplies electronics to numerous defense enterprises. And until recently, Evtushenkov held ownership of Kronstadt, a company renowned for its military drone Orion, among other products.

Suleiman Kerimov, a French Riviera senator

France harbors so many affluent supporters of Putin that they seem to require their own representative in the Russian parliament — just like other regions of Russia. Fortunately for the families of Kremlin cronies living lives of luxury in Europe, they already have one, at least informally.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Suleiman Kerimov is a member of the Federation Council and the United Russia party. Although he himself is under EU sanctions, his real estate in France is registered under his daughter's name.

Again via a financial scheme involving French companies, 34-year-old Gulnara Kerimova owns four villas on Cape Antibes. The senator's daughter is included in the sanction lists of the United States and the United Kingdom, but not the European Union.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Victor Vekselberg — pumps in France, rockets in Russia

Located just an hour's drive from Paris along the A13 highway is the building of Sulzer Pompes France, a company specializing in pumping equipment.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

The commercial registry lists the Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg as the beneficiary of Sulzer Pompes France. He owns the French company through Sulzer AG, its Swiss parent company. This conglomerate is considered one of the world's leading pump manufacturers.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Putin and Vekselberg
Putin and Vekselberg

In Russia, Vekselberg is primarily known as a co-owner of the aluminum company Rusal, which supplies some of its products to defense enterprises. Vekselberg's companies are also involved in the production of precision missiles, which are used in the bombing of Ukrainian territory.

Daughter of Prikhodko, Son of Potanin

The late Sergey Prikhodko was a highly influential Deputy Prime Minister of Russia up until his death in 2021. His daughter Svetlana is married to businessman Ivan Sadchikov. According to Novaya Gazeta, Sadchikov was among the beneficiaries of corrupt schemes involving the Tactical Missile Weapons Corporation. His business partner was Rostislav Zorikov, the son-in-law of the corporation's head, Boris Obnosov. Zorikov's interest in the military corporation led to his inclusion on the Czech Republic’s sanctions list, resulting in the seizure of his property in Prague.

However, France has made no such claims against Sadchikov — this despite his similar business record. Sadchikov owns the company Okilo SARL, which in turn owns a chalet in the Alpine town of Megeve. Together with Prikhodko's daughter, Sadchikov also owned a company called A&P, which is now closed.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Another child of the Russian elite living comfortably in France is Ivan Potanin, the son of oligarch Vladimir Potanin. Potanin the younger is a co-owner of P&B Developpements Services.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Ivan Potanin’s fellow shareholder in the enterprise is his aquabiking partner, Pascal Barriac. So far, the oligarch’s son has managed to avoid European sanctions, as only Ukraine and the United States have included Ivan on their respective blacklists.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Vladimir Lisin and other criminal oligarchs

One more oligarch with business interests in France is Vladimir Lisin, who helps sponsor the United Russia party. In addition to its owner’s political contributions, Lisin’s Novolipetsk Steel Plant (NLMK) supplies steel to Russian nuclear weapon developers.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Lisin’s interests in France are not restricted to villas. He also owns manufacturing operations in the country, including the NLMK Strasbourg plant, which specializes in the production of galvanized steel products. Lisin's company also owns manufacturing facilities on the banks of the Rhine in Strasbourg.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Lisin began his business career in the 1990s alongside entrepreneurs associated with the Izmailovo criminal group, including Mikhail Cherny and Iskander Makhmudov. Makhmudov and his junior partner, Andrei Bokarev, own villas on the French Riviera. Alexander Dyukov, a well-known associate of the local criminal groups that played an influential role in operations at the St. Petersburg Sea Port during Putin’s time as deputy mayor of the city in the early 1990s, also settled nearby.

Rotenberg's mistress

Maria Borodunova, a Latvian citizen, was described by OCCRP as the unofficial wife of Arkady Rotenberg. Rotenberg, who grew up with Putin in St. Petersburg and who owes his fortune almost exclusively to the president’s patronage, transferred part of his assets to Borodunova. The scheme implies that these assets at least informally belong to Putin, as Rotenberg is one of Putin's key “wallets” — trusted individuals who mask ownership of accounts that, in fact, are controlled by the president.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

In France, Borodunova, along with her young children, owns a company called Dana. The company in turn owns a villa in Villefranche-sur-Mer, the site of the Russian consulate where Russians abroad voted overwhelmingly for Putin in the March electoral process.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Maria Borodunova's villa
Maria Borodunova's villa

Abramovich's children

Roman Abramovich's three daughters and son own a sprawling estate in Saint-Tropez. Satellite images reveal not just several villas, but also a vineyard on the property. Additionally, 21-year-old Ilya Abramovich holds property in the port of Grimaud through his company Akula.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

While Ilya and his sisters Arina and Anna hold British citizenship, their sister Anna carries a Lithuanian passport. Abramovich strategically uses his children as a tool for navigating around sanctions, transferring to them trusts holding at least $4 billion in 2022.

A United Russia family

The family of former United Russia State Duma deputy Andrey Golushko also resides in France. His daughter Maria is a prominent contractor for the party.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Until 2021, Maria's company, Rusko Partners, raked in tens of millions of rubles annually by producing United Russia merchandise, as reported to the Central Election Commission. Recent suppliers of United Russia merchandise include Milagro, a company founded by Natalia Baymakshina, a former employee of Maria Golushko's Rusko Partners.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

Nestled in the town of Mougins, near Cannes, is the Golushko family's villa. With funds from United Russia, Maria and her father, who spent 13 years in the State Duma and Federation Council, can indulge in the region's renowned gastronomy, as Mougins is hailed as a culinary hub. One wonders whether these outspoken Russian patriots request that the chefs at their favorite Michelin star restaurants go off-menu to whip up traditional staples like buckwheat kasha and fried potatoes, or if they are content to gut it out on foie gras and other delicacies of the supposedly “russophobic” West.

Billionaire, owner of the mobile operator MTS.

As of now, the ultimate beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. Evtushenkov was among the shareholders of Kronstadt until at least 2023.

Florella Property SAS, Lexa Property SAS, VH Antibes SAS, CDA Investment SAS.

During the Soviet era, Potanin was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In the 1990s, he served in Boris Yeltsin's government, where pioneered the use of «loans for shares» deals that allowed him to acquire mining company Norilsk Nickel at a fraction of its value. Following Putin's rise to power, Potanin became a sponsor of the United Russia party (along with the Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Federation, an organization chaired by Putin's daughter). Norilsk Nickel is a supplier to Rostec, which uses its products in the production of engines for military aircraft. 

Through the entities Villa Saint Jaume 1, Villa Saint Jaume 2, Villa Saint Jaume 3, and Sofie's Choice.

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