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Russia's Lukoil breaks ranks by telling Putin to end war in Ukraine

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 03/03/2022 Tom Rees
Lukoil © Provided by The Telegraph Lukoil

Russia’s second-largest oil company has urged Vladimir Putin to end his invasion of Ukraine in a sign of hardening resistance against the conflict among influential oligarchs.

Lukoil, led by billionaire founder Vagit Alekperov, called for an “immediate cessation of the armed conflict” and expressed concern over the “tragic events” as domestic pressure on the Kremlin mounts.

It is one of the first critical statements on the invasion from a major company inside Russia as waves of western sanctions wreak havoc for its economy.

The crisis has wiped billions off the fortune of Mr Alekperov with Lukoil adding to a growing chorus of discontent among Russian oligarchs, including inside Mr Putin’s inner business circle. 

Lukoil said: “We stand for the immediate cessation of the armed conflict and fully support its resolution through the negotiation process and through diplomatic means.”

The company “expresses its concern over the ongoing tragic events in Ukraine and its deepest sympathy to all those affected by this tragedy”.

Lukoil's Vagit Alekperov meets Russian President Vladimir Putin © Provided by The Telegraph Lukoil's Vagit Alekperov meets Russian President Vladimir Putin

Shares in Lukoil had fallen sharply before trading on Moscow’s stock market was suspended indefinitely on Monday.

Video: Vladimir Putin says Russia was ‘forced’ to take a decision on Ukraine crisis (The Independent)

Vladimir Putin says Russia was ‘forced’ to take a decision on Ukraine crisis

The company has thousands of petrol stations including some in the United States. On Wednesday Newark, the largest city in New Jersey, passed a resolution suspending the business licence for Lukoil sites following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Lukoil's statement about the invasion follows interventions from two of Russia’s richest men, Mikhail Fridman and Putin ally Oleg Deripaska.

Mr Fridman, the co-founder of Alfa-Bank, one of the country’s largest lenders, said the invasion was a “tragedy” for both Ukranians and Russians, adding that “war can never be the answer”.

Mr Deripaska, the founder of aluminium giant Rusal, said “negotiations must start as soon as possible”, saying “peace is the priority”.

The criticism of the invasion from Russian oligarchs comes as many of them have their assets frozen by the West under sanctions slapped on Moscow. The UK is considering seizing properties owned by oligarchs with ties to Mr Putin as it ups the pressure on the Kremlin.

The decision to invade Ukraine has wreaked havoc on Russia’s economy. On Wednesday night S&P lowered its sovereign debt deeper into junk territory, with a ‘CCC-‘ rating and a warning that the country will not be able to pay its debts.

The ratings agency estimated that international sanctions have halved the Kremlin's available foreign exchange reserves, while its banking system has been left with extremely limited access to global financial structures.

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