In the two months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the silence — and even acquiescence — of the Russian elite has started to fray.
Even as opinion polls report overwhelming public support for the military campaign, amid pervasive state propaganda and new laws outlawing criticism of the war, cracks are starting to show. The dividing lines among factions of the Russian economic elite are becoming more marked, and some of the tycoons — especially those who made their fortunes before President Vladimir Putin came to power — have begun, tentatively, to speak.
For many, the most immediate focus has been their own woes. Sweeping sanctions imposed by the West have brought down a new iron curtain on the Russian economy, freezing tens of billions of dollars of many of the tycoons’ assets along the way.
“In one day, they destroyed what was built over many years. It’s a catastrophe,” said one businessman who was summoned along with many of the country’s other richest men to meet Putin on the day of the invasion.