The Kremlin mafia's common fund is filling up in Vienna

The company of “Putin’s friends” easily earns billions of euros from Austria.
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During the first 17 months of a full-scale war with Ukraine, Sibur, through its European subsidiary SIBUR International GmbH, exported €3 billion worth of products, The Insider calculated. The Russian holding has not been subject to any sanctions and continues to freely earn money from selling goods around the world. Among the shareholders of Sibur are people close to Putin personally, and the company has long been considered one of the Kremlin’s “common funds.”

Putin's common fund

In December 2020, Vladimir Putin, during a visit to the Tyumen region, stopped by the ZapSibNeftekhim plant in Tobolsk, the largest petrochemical complex in Russia, part of the Sibur holding. We can say that Putin was inspecting his possessions: despite the private status of Sibur, the company is closely associated with the president’s personal circle. And ZapSibNeftekhim, whose work was inspected by Putin, remains a major manufacturer of products for Western countries even two years after the start of a full-scale war.

The largest owners of Sibur are Putin's wallet Gennady Timchenko (17%) and Leonid Mikhelson (30.6%). Blocks of shares of the companies are also in the hands of Putin’s ex-son-in-law Kirill Shamalov, the head of Gazprom Neft Alexander Dyukov, another Putin wallet Yuri Kovalchuk and Putin’s nephew Mikhail Shelomov.

All these people are connected with Putin not only by personal friendship, they also act as holders of his personal assets. So, for example, it was Timchenko who organized the purchase of the Scheherazade yacht as a gift to Putin from the oligarchs. Mikhelson sponsored the Federation of Acrobatic Rock and Roll and Innopraktika, Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova.

Kirill Shamalov, the son of Putin’s longtime friend Nikolai Shamalov, after his marriage to Katerina Tikhonova received a large stake in Sibur, most of which he lost after the divorce. However, he remained with a 3.3% stake and served on the company’s board of directors until 2022.

Kovalchuk and Shelomov became minority shareholders of Sibur in 2021 through the insurance company Sogaz. Mikhelson shared his share with them.

Sibur's net profit last year amounted to 168.5 billion rubles, and revenue exceeded a trillion rubles.

What and how does Sibur sell?

Just a few minutes' drive from the Austrian Parliament building in Vienna, at Prinz-Eugen-Straße 8/10, is the headquarters of Putin's friends. This is the office of SIBUR International, which is wholly owned by the Russian holding company Sibur.

The Sibur subsidiary, registered in Austria, serves as the export division of the Russian parent group. According to The Insider's estimates, €3 billion worth of products were exported from Russia through SIBUR International GmbH from March 2022 to August 2023. Such amounts roughly correspond to the official financial indicators of the Austrian company: in 2022 its turnover amounted to €3.08 billion.

Basically, the company from Vienna purchases in Russia raw materials for the production of synthetic rubber, polyethylene, solvent, propane-butane, rubber, bromobutyl rubber for use in the tire industry, chlorobutyl rubber, etc. The senders are both PJSC Sibur Holding itself and its Russian divisions: LLC NHTK, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, Kazanorgsintez, Voronezhsintezkauchuk, etc.

Sibur products, among other things, are used for the production of car tires, rubber products, cables and footwear. At the moment, the European Union has established quotas for the supply of rubber from Russia: as reported, Italy and its leading tire manufacturer Pirelli lobbied for the establishment of high quotas.

Sibur, as follows from customs documents, also sends its products to China, Turkey, Poland (via Asl Logistyka Slawomir Lacisz), Italy (via Gicar S.P.A.) and other countries.

Western top managers in the management of Sibur

In 2020, US citizen Peter O’Brien became Sibur’s director for economics and finance. Previously, he served on the company's board of directors.

Now the composition of Sibur’s management bodies and the list of affiliates are classified, but there have been no official reports about the departure of the American top manager. But after February 2022, former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon definitely left the company’s board of directors. In his homeland, Fillon was convicted in the case of fictitious employment in parliament of his wife Penelope, who illegally received more than €1 million in salary from the French budget. In 2023, Fillon appeared before the commission on foreign interference in the affairs of the French parliament and stated that his work for Russian companies is a “private matter.”

The Austrian office of Sibur, on the contrary, is headed by a Russian citizen. This is 40-year-old Marina Plotnikova, who, according to The Insider, is a member of the family of descendants of USSR artillery marshal Vasily Kazakov.

Sibur’s work in Europe is not hampered even by the fact that the company is a defense contractor. As Proekt previously wrote, Sibur is concluding deals to supply styrene and diethylene glycol to the Kamensk plant, which produces solid rocket fuel, solid propellant charges, and rocket engines that are used in the Grad, Smerch, and Uragan missile systems. He also supplied styrene and butyl acrylate to the Perm Powder Plant, which makes charges for multiple launch rocket systems, air defense systems, engine charges for aircraft missiles, launch-acceleration systems for cruise missiles, and spherical gunpowder for small arms.

The importance of Sibur for Putin personally is difficult to overestimate. In addition to the fact that the company’s shareholders are his relatives and close friends, he is aware of the holding’s activities: according to The Insider’s calculations, over the past two years, Putin initiated discussions of Sibur’s work at least 20 times during official meetings. And at the end of February, he personally “kicked off” the construction of a center for scientific research and scaling of Sibur technologies in Kazan.

Despite the company's closeness to Putin, it was not subject to Western sanctions. The EU and its shareholders are avoiding personal sanctions: Leonid Mikhelson, Alexander Dyukov and Mikhail Shelomov.