Two of Russia's richest billionaires are speaking out against Russian invasion of Ukraine as sanctions slam the country's economic elite

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Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman looks up and to the right.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska are speaking out against the war with Ukraine — making them some of the first Russian business leaders to push back against Putin's military invasion.

The rare protest from Russian elites comes as the US, Canada, and European nations impose "severe" sanctions on the country's economy and finance systems. On top of targeting the Russian economy and financial systems, the sanctions are also taking aim at prominent Russian oligarchs and their Western assets.

One day after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia's 22 richest individuals lost a combined $39 billion. Now, the Russian economy is facing a financial meltdown.

Related video: People around the world are protesting Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Fridman, who founded Russia's largest private bank and currently runs LetterOne, a private equity firm, said "war can never be the answer" in a letter to employees first reported by the Financial Times on Sunday.

"I do not make political statements, I am a businessman with responsibilities to my many thousands of employees in Russia and Ukraine," the Ukrainian-born investor wrote, per the FT. "This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been brothers for hundreds of years."

Fridman is one of Russia's richest men, and is the 183rd richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

While he currently is not personally targeted by US sanctions, Fridman was sanctioned by the EU on Monday.

Deripaska, who made his billions from Russian aluminum company Rusal, said "peace is very important" in a Telegram post on Sunday, adding that peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia should begin "as fast as possible."

The Russian oligarch has been personally named on the US sanctions list since 2018, when the US Treasury designated him as having connections to the Russian government and state energy sector.

He sued to have the sanctions repealed, after they "devastated" his wealth and business reputation, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Ten oligarchs in Putin's inner circle were sanctioned on Thursday, including prominent CEOs of Russia's state-backed oil and diamond mining companies.

Read the original article on Business Insider