Meet Russian oligarchs with investment ties to Western Canada not named in Ottawa sanctions

Some controversial figures have so far escaped Canadian government sanctions

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NATO governments have pledged to crack down on deals by Russian oligarchs and companies, but some controversial figures with significant investment ties to Western Canada have so far escaped Canadian government sanctions.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has declared that all Canadian financial institutions are prohibited from carrying out transactions with the Russian Central Bank. And Canadian authorities have identified dozens of Russian individuals and entities for sanctions in recent days, freezing the assets of 58 targets and barring any transactions with them.

But one of the most recognizable Russian elites to have been excluded from Canada’s sanctions list is billionaire Roman Abramovich, best known outside his home country as the owner of Chelsea FC, one of the most popular soccer games in the world.

Abramovich is also the largest shareholder in Evraz PLC, a steel fabrication and mining company with facilities in Regina, Calgary and Edmonton.

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Evraz supplied the majority of the pipe to the Trans Mountain (TMX) expansion project, which will extend the movement of oil and refined products from the Edmonton area to a terminal on the Pacific Coast for export. Evraz’s deal with the pipeline’s original owner, Kinder Morgan, provided 250,000 metric tons of pipe to the project.

Alexander Abramov, Alexander Frolov, Evgeny Shvidler and Maxim Vorobyev – all wealthy Russians – are also among the UK-based company’s six largest shareholders, according to Bloomberg. None of them are on Canada’s sanctions list.

TMX was purchased by the federal government in 2018, making Evraz’s exclusion from sanctions so far a sensitive issue for the Trudeau government.

“The steel supplied by Evraz for the TMX pipeline was fully delivered in the second quarter of 2021 when sanctions were not in place and the war had not yet started,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said this morning. week at a press conference.

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Abramovich is not the only billionaire with Canadian assets to face media scrutiny following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Oligarch Igor Makarov.
Oligarch Igor Makarov. Photo by Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images Files

A lesser known figure who invests in the Canadian oil sector is billionaire Igor Makarov. The Turkmenistan-born businessman and former Russian cyclist owns a 19.5% stake in Spartan Delta Corp, making him the largest shareholder in the Calgary-based natural gas producer.

The company said in a statement this week that Makarov’s stake, through Swiss company Areti Energy SA, carries no control or veto power. “Spartan has no other relationship with Areti beyond its participation in Spartan and no such relationship is contemplated now or in the future,” the company said.

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A US PR firm for Areti strenuously denied to the Financial Post that Makarov had any ties to Putin.

Makarov made his fortune as a natural gas supplier to former Soviet states, before expanding into exploration and processing in Russia in the mid-1990s and 2000s as the founder of a Moscow-based company known as Itera’s name – a precursor to Areti, according to the company’s website. Itera was acquired by Russian oil company Rosneft in 2013.

Makarov was identified on a US Treasury list of Russian oligarchs in 2018 – a list that critics lambasted for apparently copying names from a Forbes list of global billionaires.

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Makarov is not on Canada’s list of sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

The federal government has had sanctions in place since 2014, when Russian forces invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine – more than 440 individuals and entities have been named since then.

The Trudeau government has hinted that others may be on the way.

“We are carefully reviewing the holdings of all Russian oligarchs and Russian businesses in Canada,” Freeland said March 1. “We are looking at them and everything is on the table.”

Freeland added: “If we are really committed to supporting Ukraine, if the stakes in the fight are as high as I believe, we have to be honest with ourselves, I have to be honest with Canadians, that he there could be collateral damage in Canada.

— With files from Bloomberg News

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