Putin’s Powerful Friends Rally Around Russian President Despite Sanctions


On Friday morning, Dmitri Kalantyrsky, the president of a large Russian bank called SMP, got word of what he later called “an anomaly” in his clients’ transactions. The money had stopped flowing. The bank’s clients were getting their cards declined. Russia’s other banks were cutting off all operations with SMP, isolating it from the financial system. By the end of that day, more than $200 million would be withdrawn from SMP’s accounts as a run on the bank began. At the central office in Moscow, says Kalantyrsky, “we also became victims of the panic.”

Around lunch time, SMP’s controlling shareholders, Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, arrived at their bank’s headquarters to assess the damage. They understood where it was coming from. Both of the Rotenberg brothers are childhood friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the previous day, they had been placed on a U.S. sanctions list along with 18 of…

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