Why don’t the Russian billionaires who own Brittney Griner’s basketball team help her get out of jail?
Brittney Griner’s nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony, which, let’s face it, conjures up chilling images and brings to mind “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Set in a Soviet labor camp, the short novel describes the prisoner’s struggle for human dignity.
Judging by brief footage of the six-foot-nine WNBA superstar being escorted to his Moscow court appearances, the last of which ended with the draconian nine-year sentence for less than a gram of cannabis oil, Griner seems to have his human dignity intact.
What about the billionaire owners of Griner’s Russian basketball team?
Dignity does not come to mind when one reflects on the inaction of the Russian oligarchs who did not say anything to their friend Vladimir Putin, as far as anyone knows, nor pressure him to grant a respite for the 31-year-old basketball player and allow her to walk freely.
Ask yourself why? That might shed some light
The Griner team has played for the past seven years, the UMMC Yekaterinburg is controlled by Russian billionaires Iskander Makhmudov and its business partner, Andrei Kozitsyn. The two men also run the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, one of Russia’s leading producers of copper, zinc, coal, gold and silver.
Proceeds from mining helped Makhmudov and Kozitsyn invest in women’s basketball and other sports in Russia, such as martial arts, hockey, motorcycle racing, table tennis, etc.
The invasion that changed everything
The day Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin brought together at least 13 of the country’s wealthiest businessmen – the oligarchs who surfaced after the collapse of the Soviet Union and began to appropriate investment interests in major industries like the gas, oil and precious metals.
The purpose of the meeting other than telling them that the invasion was a “necessary measure”, was to let his friends know (as if they didn’t already know) that they would likely face economic sanctions from the United States. United and European Union.
Too late for some to hide their assets
Roman Abramovichformer owner of Chelsea Football Club had its $4.5 billion in assets in London (about a third of its total) sold or frozen after the invasion.
Russian oligarchs have been hiding their assets for years. As much as $1 trillion of Russian wealth is stored in offshore companies in places like Switzerland, Cyprus and even the United States.
Makhmudov and his team owner partner Griner Kozitsyn were at Putin’s meeting and, except for the sanctions, they would not have suffered too much.
Makhmudov (net worth $9.41 billion), who has been charged with racketeering, fraud, bribery and attempted murder, also co-owned two British Virgin Islands companies with another billionaire. Andrei Bokarev (net worth $2.2 billion).
Kozitsyn, (net worth $3.8 billion) with a shorter or lesser-known criminal record, was recently added to the EU sanctions list for financially supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
While these facts don’t answer the question of why Makhmudov and Kozitsyn aren’t pushing for Griner’s release, stories of Putin’s vitriol when someone dares to question or criticize his actions have been circulating for years.
Dignity? This came out with Ivan Denisovich.
Photos: Wikimedia Commons