Putin's hand appears to shake before he meets with Lukashenko
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Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has placed his shadowy inner circle under the microscope. The notoriously private Kremlin strongman has surrounded himself with powerful oligarchs over the years. Amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, many of these elite Russian businessmen have now been sanctioned over their links to Putin. One man who is well aware of the Kremlin’s inner power struggles and the Russian President’s cutthroat nature is Sergei Pugachev.
The billionaire financier, who was once known as ‘Putin’s banker’, was once among the former KGB agent’s most trusted aides.
However, he dramatically fell from favour and was eventually hunted by Russian debt collectors after his bank collapsed.
Pugachev and his former partner Countess Alexandra Tolstoy opened up about feeling the wrath of the Kremlin in the Netflix documentary, ‘The Countess and the Russian Billionaire’.
In the film, Alexandra admitted feeling “frightened” at being visited by police officers after the Kremlin started pursuing Pugachev through the UK courts.
She said: “It is a method of intimidation, just as it was when they put GPS trackers on our cars.
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“It is to frighten me and frighten my children to get at Sergei.
“It is just really, really unpleasant. I am a British citizen and I have done nothing.”
In December 2015, Alexandra was at home in Chelsea when three police officers arrived late at night.
The officers, who were there under the instructions of the High Court, had been authorised to detain Sergei.
An arrest warrant had been issued for the oligarch after he had earlier fled the UK, claiming his life was in danger.
Prosecutors in Russia claimed Pugachev had enriched himself with taxpayers’ money given to his lender, Mezhprombank.
Pugachev denied embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the bank in 2008 before it collapsed.
The visit to Alexandra’s home came after a formal application by Russia’s state deposit agency for Pugachev’s global assets to be frozen.
He was also ordered to give up his Russian and French passports and remain in the UK so an investigation could take place.
However, the fallen oligarch fled to France, where it is believed he still resides to this day.
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In 2016, a High Court judge found him in contempt of court for fleeing the UK and sentenced him in absentia to two years behind bars.
In the Netflix film, Alexandra, claimed Sergei being targeted by the authorities was “traumatic” for their children.
Recalling the police visit, she said: “They said, ‘We have a search and arrest warrant for Sergei Pugachev. If you don’t let us in now, we will knock the door down’.
“So, I was on my own, with the children and my nanny, so I had to let them in.
“So, they literally looked everywhere, every cupboard, every bathroom, every room, under the covers in the children’s room.
“I was very, very upset because my children were there, and I don’t want them to hear anything like that. It is very traumatic.”
‘The Countess and the Russian Billionaire’ is available on Netflix.
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