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Russian billionaire says West is ‘in love’ with ‘Russian dirty money’

March 18th, 2014
10:18 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Western sanctions on Russia will not hurt, because “the Western side” is “a bit in love with certain spheres of the Russian dirty money,” Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“And secondly,” he said, “I don't think any restrictions of travel for any members of the parliament or Russian Federation, are really anything of substance.”

Nonetheless, he admitted that if a “Cold War economic sphere” set in, punitive measures could have an effect.

“Russia will have to pay a price with prices going up because we're too dependent on imports and exports,” he said.

Europe and the United States imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 28 Russian and Ukrainian officials on Monday over their involvement in a Crimean referendum to join Russia, a vote Western officials called illegal.

Lebedev, a former KGB agent turned businessman and Kremlin-critic, was not on the sanctions list. He now runs four British newspapers, including The Independent and the Evening Standard.

Lebedev denied that he is an “oligarch,” saying he is just “a humble newspaper proprietor.”

He proposed a “Crimean conference” among the great powers to try to solve the crisis, often evading Amanpour’s questions to bring the conversation back to this topic.

“It is much easier to have tomorrow a Crimean conference to deal with the issue, which is much less difficult than the [conference in] February of 1945, when Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin dealt with a much worse problems in Europe – and they did it.”

On Monday, the Russian foreign ministry seemed to propose just such a “support group” for Ukraine, but with terms, Reuters reported, that the West and Ukraine are “unlikely to welcome.”

At the end of the interview, Lebedev once again tried to bring the conversation back to the idea of a peace conference.

“They could do it – it's an easy task,” he said. “That’s why I am deviating from your questions, I am sorry.”

“You deviated and you did it heroically,” Amanpour responded. “That was really a world-class deviation, Mr. Lebedev.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Russia
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Sergey

    Russian officials laugh at the sections. Watch their ORT (a state run TV channel). These are not sanctions, just a small cause for irritation. Only economical sections can restrain Russia’s imperial ambitions. Russia today is like Germany in early 1930’s. And it is in the best interest of the West to impose economical sections and, yes, face certain economic losses today. But its better than inflate military budgets and still face consequences in 20-30 years ahead.

    March 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • Chris Herz

      It is not Russia that imitates Nazi policies. That is the mission of Washington.

      March 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Reply
      • Sergey

        If you speak Russian, you can watch this http://youtu.be/teZZMrnWUNw

        March 18, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
    • John Provenzano

      Good post mate, very valid points. I think America is going a bit too far this time with its bullying tactics.. For God´s sake, the Crimeans are the ones who have a right to choose, after all we are in the 21st millenium, whatever happened to Democracy??????Who are Americans to try to control this situation???Russians are pumping money and are having a big say in the EU economy..Football clubs in England...media/newspaper owners...mining....russian tourists in countries like Spain.....etc..etc

      March 18, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  2. san

    what was her question?

    March 18, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  3. Tommy

    Lebedev, a former KGB agent turned businessman, and billionaire?? Sounds corrupt... I mean legit.

    March 18, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Reply
    • johnjo

      If he's a Billionaire & I don't dispute it...then Putin is a multi-billionaire. & that...my friend...is really "Corrupt!"

      March 18, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  4. Shellz

    That was painful - as much as I like Amanpour, she should have just let him talk.

    March 18, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Reply
    • John Provenzano

      She has no manners!!She is a tad too arrogant!!!CNN get rid of her please...She is not even fit to tie the shoe laces of the person whom she was interveiwing and her arrogance and the tactics she used to interrupt him continually was just pathetic!!

      March 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Reply
    • johnjo

      Shellz, I agree with you, why presenters/anchors have to cut in & utter silly talk while someone is still answering the last question? Is more like "Bad Manners" to me at the least. Especially when it's a satellite interview from a-far & it takes time for the question to reach someone in the first place.

      Re; Ukraine, today Pro Russian or Pro henchmen of the FSB have shot a Ukrainian soldier & injured another, so God knows where that will take things. The unsavory Russians Putin sent to the Crimea to threaten & bully ordinary Ukrainians & Tatars before the Referendum are now in East Ukraine causing more misery. Putin intends to take the East I bet my money on it & needs to be faced down. He is a "Bully" & we know what bullies really are? Don't we. All together now, "Cowards"!

      March 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Reply
    • Kenneth Norby, Sweden

      You silly person. When Lebedev pushed his own, cold war, agenda in a rude KGB-manner it is her job to cut him
      short and get him back to the subject matter.

      March 19, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Reply
  5. Joe

    Russia can do more business with China, and the problem is solved. Russia has been holding back supply of oil and gas to China. If they need cash, China will be happy to truck them over.

    March 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  6. Anton

    Amanpour was recklessly impolite by trying to interrupt her conversation partner. We all understand that she needed during so called interview to make a solid presentation of the only "correct" point of view – that of US and EU for which she is get paid. But this "violent" marketing wrought everything wrong.

    March 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  7. aa

    The translation that I listen on the Putin speech is not correct in English. You are missing a lot of important information. Just listen to the correct and proper English translation, than I am sure you will understand the Russia position clearly. I am not so confident that US and EU are very transparent and have clear position in establishing and improving democracy worldwide.

    March 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • John Provenzano

      Agree with you wholeheartedly. Even my grandad ,who can speak fluent Russian, was of the same opinion. US and its cronies are just twisting the excerpts of the interveiw to suit their own needs...It is pathetic, by the way I cant see these mickey mouse sanctions make any impact on Russians. I am afraid, this time around US of A can hardly make a dent in Russian infrastructure/economy/..whatever with these sanctions..

      March 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Reply
    • Kenneth Norby, Sweden

      As far as democracy goes I think Russia and President Putin have a few things to learn. For example the right to
      chose and to express an opinion without ending up in prison. I don't think you will find any of that in your
      correct translation.

      March 19, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Reply
      • Anton

        Perhaps, I missed the point at which swedes deer shepherds become so competent about life in Russia, besides their wildlife. Dear Kenny, you will find it amusing, but in Russian internet, Mr. Poo is a constant target of freedom of expression, and I can't see Gulags packed with millions of innocent victims of oppression.

        Even more, I see annual Marches of Protest, March in support of Ukraine, and nobody gives any ... about problems of swedes who can't grasp the extent of freedom of expression in Russia.

        April 11, 2014 at 1:17 am |
  8. mustapha ak badjie

    i respect christiane amanpour but anton is right, amanpour should not have done that.

    March 18, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  9. Tomek

    Either Lenin or Trotsky said that capitalists were so stupid that they would give the Soviet Union a loan for which the latter could buy a rope from the former. The rope would then be used to hang the capitalists. The times have changed, the stupidity has not.

    March 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    • Nadine

      Actually – no system for itself works for itself. Socialism comes from social, capitalism means free enterprise. These systems are only market structures in the firts place, they do not mean a political believe. In reality it is so that socialism doesn't work wthout the dictatorship and capitalism doesn't work without democarcy. But both only to an extent. After the extent each system collapses into its opposite.People are not equal, they are similiar. In terms of basic needs they are similiar, they all need the same, shelter and food. Socialism is only good for the basic needs, in which people are over their close similirarity equal. After that everyone is different and will develope differently. not makable with dictatorship and socialism, only makable wih capitalism and democracy. Greetigs from Germany #2

      March 18, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  10. Nadine

    Funny – 1. Putin has problems with the oligarchs whereas the sanctions hit especially them. 2. The argument that companies are will leave Russia is weak since every company is rooted in their region and will nt just be able to leave quickly. 3. us + EU think only in one direction, that sanctions will hurt Russia. When Putin cuts off the energy supply the EU market will immidiatly stumble. The EU might only be able to survive the cut off supplies for 6 months, Russia will surely suffer too but can hold on just longer in a state of shortage. Russias depths rate is 10%, Germanys 82%, US' 120%. 4. Ucraine is a failed or false state. Think about what a failed state means. One thinks Putin wants to draw the time back into Soviet-Union times. If he wante so, Russia would collapse. He will probably march into ucraine but not to conquer as one might assume but to bring stableness into the failed or false state. Greetings from Germany

    March 18, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Reply
    • Sergey

      1. Is is not "Ucraine", is it Ukraine.
      2. "Ucraine is a failed or false state" that is a part of Putin's propaganda. Yes, Ukraine has it's diffictulties, but this does not legitimate use of referendum backed up by force. There were no single death in Crimea based on antic or language or religious ground. Yet, Kremlin wanted to “protect” Russians. Your mention of a failed stated reminded me events of 1939, shortly my after Nazi Germany annexed part of Poland. The Soviet Union annexed part of Poland on September 17, 1939 claiming to "protect" the Ukrainian and Belorusan minorities in the disintegrating Polish state.

      March 18, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  11. anoj

    Amanpour is very rude. That is why i dont watch her any more.

    March 18, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Reply
    • Kenneth Norby, Sweden

      Your loss !!!!!!

      March 19, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  12. Evgene, Russia

    I'm Russian citizen. And I want to get you my view on situation.
    1. Neither Western nor Russian media do not reflect reality "objectively and impartially"

    CNN and Telegraph does not show videos with action nationalist extremists in Ukraine.
    Why? Where is your "freedom of speech"
    Today there are numerous and growing group . They engaged in racketeering , while not hiding from the police and even shoot their own action on camera.When this came to power people hastily legitimize lyubyedeystviya "in the name of the Ukrainian nation ." Nationalists " right sector " creates " people's army " that is distributed weapons and " License to banditry ."Rhetoric exactly copies Nazi Germany at the end of 30-ies.

    On the other side, Russian media "forget" to tell the Russians that the previous President Yanukovych got money for the election campaign of the Kremlin. Over the last 25 years Ukraine mired in corruption so much that the president – it's just a mafia godfather. Actually against the president were all "ordinary people" in all regions.

    So, what happened: Gathered on Maidan peaceful Russian-speaking residents of the eastern provinces on a par with peaceful Ukrainians from the western regions.
    it is known that
    1. for finding people on Maidan received money.
    2. handing out food containing narcotic drugs are addictive.
    3. there were few trained fighters nationalists on Maidan, provided with weapons. As a result, the advantage of the weakness of the president and the mass of civilians as a shield, nationalists a coup d'etat.

    The situation at the moment:
    Russia and the West play in the information war .
    Came to power people do not serve the interests of "peaceful Maidan" and spend hardline nationalist rhetoric , not to lose the support of the militants , and depict the "triumph of justice " for the West.
    For the western regions , it means " victory over the Soviet invaders " and " European integration " (but though who in their right mind will get gunmen in eu?).
    Russian-speaking residents of the eastern areas of action of the new authorities predict only the nationalist riots , banditry , murders.
    Ukraine on the brink of civil war.

    What will happen:
    Scheduled for May 25 presidential elections will not be democratic, since there is no candidate, any suiting eastern regions.
    In addition, there will be a strong struggle at the top of the Nationalist Party.

    Why Russia is able to capture the Crimea:
    1. Capture the Crimea on the results of the referendum well as semi-legitimate, as the takeover of Kiev as a result of the "people's Maidan". 2. The West can not impose sanctions on Russia without loss to themselves
    3. Russian people were growing with the idea that Crimea is Russia (And Ukrain is brotherhood country).
    Secondly, Russians hate nationalists (Remember thousands Russians films about Second World War).
    there will no protests, even in a case of strong deterioration of the Russian economy.
    4. Crimeans consider themselves Russians. Ukraine for the time did nothing to make his Crimea.
    5. Crimea promise will be beneficial for Russia economically and politically.

    Take any other eastern regions of Russia? It will be known after the civil war in Ukraine. If the new government include brains, and stop openly humiliate and displace-speaking population, it would be no war. P.S. There is a feeling that the division of Ukraine for a long time agreed between the West and Russia, and that the new Ukrainian authorities have appeared to carry out this separation.

    P.S. There is a feeling that the division of Ukraine for a long time agreed between the West and Russia, and that the new Ukrainian authorities have appeared to carry out this separation.

    March 21, 2014 at 5:22 am | Reply
  13. Andrey

    This is the way to talk to these Western journalists.
    They talk nonsense 24/7. Talk it right back at them. Let them taste their own medicine.

    March 23, 2014 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • Anton

      Andrey, this is a Western-type "democracy" – nobody lets you speak. Because .. you are obvious minority, like Afro-Americans ;)

      April 11, 2014 at 1:22 am | Reply
  14. nonyabizz

    Russian billionaires are in love with the dirty stuff their dirty money buys....

    April 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  15. nonyabizz

    That said, it was a bad interview.

    April 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Reply

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