Russia's 20 richest people lost $10 billion this week as the central bank raised interest rates to counter western sanctions that have crushed the ruble and sent the country's RTS Index to its lowest point since March 2009. The billionaires have dropped a combined $62 billion in 2014, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The ruble has plummeted 50 percent since the end of June. Crude fell to a five-year low after the United Arab Emirates said OPEC won't rein in production. In response, Russia's central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 17 percent from 10.5 percent in the middle of the night in Moscow on Dec. 15 as the ruble slid below 64 per dollar for the first time. "The optimists who thought in March that everything would be all right in the end now understand that nothing will be OK," Stanislav Belkovsky, a Kremlin adviser during Putin's first term said.
Leonid Mikhelson has been the biggest loser in dollar terms among those remaining in the country's 20 richest, dropping $8.7 billion since the start of the year. Gennady Timchenko, 62, turned in the second-worst dollar drop, losing $7.8 billion this year. The third-biggest U.S. dollar drop was registered by Vladimir Lisin, 58, the chairman and largest shareholder of OAO Novolipetsk Steel. The steelmaker has slumped 42 percent this year, helping cut Lisin's wealth by $7.5 billion.
The declines also knocked Alisher Usmanov, whose Russian losses have been mitigated by gains in Chinese technology companies Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and JD.Com Inc., has dropped $6.8 billion year-to-date. Nobody was hit harder in percentage terms than Vladimir Evtushenkov. Once Russia's 14th-richest person, the 66-year-old has seen almost 90 percent of his wealth disappear, dropping him from the top 20. The billionaire was sentenced to house arrest by a Moscow court in September after a money-laundering investigation connected to the $2.5 billion purchase of shares in oil producer OAO Bashneft.
The court also ruled in favor of nationalizing his stake in Bashneft, which he controlled through publicly traded AFK Sistema. Evtushenkov's fortune has fallen $9 billion, the most of any Russian in 2014.
Arkady Rotenberg, another Putin ally sanctioned by the west, has lost $2.3 billion this year leaving him with a net worth of $898 million, a 72 percent drop.