Russian firms on the London stock market faced a fresh backlash last night after they finally broke their silence on the crisis in Ukraine – but failed to condemn the invasion.
Steelmaker Evraz, whose biggest shareholder is Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, said it was ‘deeply concerned saddened’ by what it called the ‘Ukraine-Russia conflict’ hoped a peaceful resolution could be found soon.
At the same time, miner Polymetal International said the ‘unfolding tragedy in Ukraine is horrifying heartbreaking’ as it called for ‘a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict’.
Weak: Evraz, whose top shareholder is Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich (pictured), said it was ‘deeply concerned saddened’ by what it called the ‘Ukraine-Russia conflict’
But neither firm – both members of the FTSE 100 until the end of next week when they will be relegated following a slump in their share price – criticised the invasion ordered by Russian president Vladimir Putin in their statements to shareholders.
The tone of the updates triggered fresh calls for companies with links to the Kremlin to be removed from the London stock market altogether.
Sam Armstrong, director of communications for the Henry Jackson Society, a national security foreign policy think tank, said the failure of the companies to condemn the conflict ‘in the strongest terms’ represented ‘a complete failure of leadership’.
‘Any company with strong links to the Putin regime should be delisted from the London Stock Exchange immediately.’
The sentiment was shared by financier anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder, who said Ukraine was experiencing a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ ‘everyone has a duty to cut off any flow of funds to the Russian state’.
The biggest shareholders in Evraz are Abramovich, company founder chairman Alexander Abramov former chief executive Alexander Frolov, who combined own nearly 58 per cent of the company. All three were featured on a list of Russian oligarchs released by the US Treasury Department in 2018.
In what was nebulously dubbed an ‘update on certain matters’, the company flagged that despite sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion there had been ‘no material direct impact’ on its day-to-day operations, although its supply logistics chains were experiencing ‘frictions’.
However, there were creeping signs of uncertainty as the firm cancelled a dividend payment worth £553million as a result of the conflict.
The decision will deprive Abramovich of around £159million while Abramov will lose out on £107million Frolov £53million.
Polymetal also avoided any direct condemnation of Putin or the Russian invasion, saying instead that the situation was ‘horrifying heartbreaking’.
Nearly 24 per cent of Polymetal is owned by its founder Alexander Nesis, who set up the firm in 1998 in St Petersburg through his ICT Group. He was also named on the US Treasury list.
The gold miner said operations remained ‘undisrupted’, although the company warned sales of gold bullion in Russia had been impacted by sanctions by the US, the EU the UK.
Another miner, FTSE 250-listed Petropavlovsk, also appeared to shrug off the effects of sanctions.
It said the company’s operations in the far east of Russia were continuing ‘without interruption’ that no member of the group had yet been named on any sanctions lists. The firm did not offer any condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine.
Evraz, Polymetal Petropavlovsk have seen their stock prices hammered this year. Evraz is down nearly 85 per cent in the year-to-date, Polymetal 88 per cent Petropavlovsk 83 per cent.