(Bloomberg) — The US sanctioned Vladimir Potanin, Russia’s richest tycoon and the president and biggest shareholder of mining giant MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, but left his company untouched as it tries to maintain stability in the metals market.
The action against Potanin on Thursday was part of a broader sanctions package the Treasury Department rolled out Thursday targeting some 40 people linked to Russia’s government. Also included was Rosbank, which Potanin acquired earlier this year, and a range of smaller entities.
“By sanctioning additional major Russian banks, we continue to deepen Russia’s isolation from global markets,” Treasury Undersecretary Brian Nelson said in a statement. “Today’s designations by the United States, together with actions taken by our international partners, will further inhibit the Putin regime’s ability to fund its horrific war against Ukraine.”
More than 40% of Potanin’s net worth — $30.4 billion according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index — comes from his stake in Nornickel, one of the world’s largest producers of nickel, palladium and copper. While the restrictions weren’t extended to Nornickel, they could prompt some buyers to shun Russian metal in a form of self-sanctioning.
The US action comes after the UK imposed sanctions on Potanin at the end of June. Before that, Potanin had largely avoided western sanctions that hit other members of the Russian elite. He has also been sanctioned by Canada and Australia.
Potanin has headed Nornickel since striking a 2012 shareholder accord with United Co. Rusal International PJSC, the company’s second-largest investor. Potanin’s stake of just under 36% is held through his investment firm Interros Holding. It’s not clear if Potanin will step down.
The London Metal Exchange last month decided against a ban on new deliveries of Russian metal, after launching a formal discussion of the matter in October. Although the US and Europe have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, the metals traded on the LME have largely avoided blanket restrictions.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Potanin has bought up some of Russia’s key privately owned banks, including buying Rosbank PJSC from Societe Generale SA. He also bought a stake in Tinkoff Bank from founder Oleg Tinkov, who said he was forced to sell after criticizing the war.
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