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Tycoon Deripaska says Western firms shouldn't be pressured to sell Russian assets

FILE PHOTO: Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska attends the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has said that Western investors should not be pressured to sell their Russian assets, a practice he said was dishonest, short-sighted and harmful to the Russian and global economies.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, many Western companies have fled Russia and some of their holdings have been put under state management, with allies of President Vladimir Putin gaining day-to-day control.

Some Western investors who have remained in Russia say they have come under pressure to sell up, being offered bargain-basement prices and threatened with effective expropriation.

"Pushing foreign companies to sell their Russian assets is dishonest, short–sighted and extremely harmful to the economy – not only the global economy, but also to Russia's," Deripaska was quoted saying by the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, remarks confirmed as accurate by a spokesman for Deripaska.

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"It is important that the few Western investors who still work in Russia remain owners of their enterprises and be able to survive these difficult times."

In the wartime economy of Russia, some businessmen have become billionaires by acquiring the prime assets of Western companies at extremely discounted prices.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Deripaska himself has been sanctioned by Britain for his alleged ties to Putin. He has mounted a legal challenge against the sanctions which he says are based on false information and ride roughshod over the basic principles of law and justice.

Deripaska, who studied physics at Moscow University, branched out into metals trading as the Soviet Union crumbled, making a fortune by buying up stakes in aluminium factories. Forbes ranked his fortune this year at $2.8 billion.

He founded Basic Element, an industrial group with interests in mining, energy, property and agriculture, on the base of his Siberian Aluminium which had gained control over some of the jewels of the post-Soviet aluminium sector.

Deripaska in 2022 called for peace in Ukraine and casts the war as a tragedy for both the Russian and Ukrainian people.

Deripaska has also been subjected to sanctions by the United States, which in 2018 took measures against him and other influential Russians because it said they were profiting from a Russian state engaged in "malign activities" around the world.

The sanctions, an attempt to punish Moscow for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, were "groundless, ridiculous and absurd", Deripaska said at the time.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by David Holmes)