Fossil fuel and chemical magnates top Forbes list of ‘most successful’ Russian billionaires this decade amid climate and ecological crisis
The Russian edition of Forbes has compiled a list of the “most successful” Russian billionaires of the decade, ranking the oligarchs and entrepreneurs whose net worth increased most during the 2010s.
First place on the list went to major natural gas shareholder Leonid Mikhelson. His wealth grew from $4.4 billion to $27 billion in the course of 10 years, placing him at the top of Forbes’s Russian wealth rankings as well as its growth rankings.
Second on the list was investor Gennady Timchenko, whose net worth grew by more than 10 times from $1.9 billion to $22.7 billion. Timchenko’s asset management company, Volga Group, has large stakes in a number of economic sectors, but its most important investments are based in gas, coal, and petrochemicals. Like Mikhelson, Volga Group has a large stake in Novatek, Russia’s second-largest source of natural gas.
Vladimir Potanin, who was instrumental in the loans-for-shares scheme that created Russia’s oligarchy in the 1990s, took third place. His wealth grew by $13.5 billion between 2010 and 2019. Potanin owns a large stake in the firm Norilsk Nickel, which is notorious for its toxic pollution record.
Scientists have warned that without an immediate, systemic shift away from fossil fuels, the climate crisis is likely to cause widespread social collapse within the lifetimes of current generations. Russia’s own Environmental Ministry warned last year that disastrous environmental events are already taking lives in Russia at an escalating rate. Nonetheless, Russia currently occupies fourth place in global rankings of greenhouse gas emissions, and its government has repressed climate activism. Ecological activism in northern cities like Norilsk has faced similar obstacles.
In total, Forbes reported that the 10 “most successful” Russian billionaires of the 2010s increased their wealth by $111 billion, an intake “just slightly less than the net worth of the wealthiest person on the planet, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.”