An Oligarch’s Path to Power: Moshe Kantor and the Destruction of Yukos

This summer is when I first noticed that Moshe Kantor, current president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), was utterly avoiding confronting Vladimir Putin regarding any Jewish issues. I decided to find out why, and immediately was confronted with a glaring fact. Kantor is head of the multi-billion dollar umbrella corporation Acron Group. Kantor is a Russian oligarch.

With this in mind, and a new understanding of his ties to the Kremlin, I continued my search and soon found an article detailing his involvement in the 2003 government ordered break-up(and eventual bankruptcy) of Yukos, a massive Russian oil and gas company.

This was a particularly controversial case, because Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the head of Yukos and once the wealthiest man in Russia, had publically challenged Putin’s regime by openly supporting democratization, international co-operation and general reform. Putin had Khodorkovsky thrown in prison, claiming to be making an example of him for other oligarchs. In one swift blow Khodorkovsky was removed from politics, and state owned companies (such as Rosneft) received Yukos’ assets.

Russia Tycoon Tried Twice

Photo of Khodorkovsky via Telegraph

So where does Moshe Kantor come into this? Kantor, who had previously had a business dispute with a Yukos subsidiary, served as a strong ally to Putin in the destruction of Yukos.

Apparently, “Kantor drew up memoranda, which reached the prosecution, detailing the essence of the dispute, which had to do with coordinating the prices of certain chemical products. The FSB and the prosecution made use of the memoranda to fire the opening salvo in a war that ended with Khodorkovsky being sent to a Siberian prison for eight years. His associate, Leonid Nevzlin, found asylum in Israel. Yukos was dissolved and transferred to other magnates, who are close to Putin.”

(Source:Haaretz)

His actions also served to benefit his close friend and fellow oligarch Mikhail Friedman, who owns the Alpha Bank which controls major stakes in TNK, an oil company that is a partner of British Petroleum.

So there you have it, another piece in the puzzle of Kantor’s ties to Putin.

As for why this is important to the Jewish community- remember that Kantor is head of the European Jewish Congress. He controls the diplomatic arm of a group that is currently facing immense turmoil in their home countries. His connections and ultimate obligations to the Kremlin put European Jewry at risk.

These ties to the Kremlin are most likely the reason why he has avoided confronting Putin regarding his vast deals with Iran. It also explains why Kantor and the EJC have done nothing to aid Ukrainian Jews fleeing the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. This is highly significant, as Ukraine is a member community of the EJC. And why does Kantor condemn Sweden’s decision to recognize a Palestinian State, but not Russia’s’? Finally, Kantor has done little to confront anti-Semitism, completely the image of an oligarch holding a position only for the sake of its prestige.

Furthermore, he is a representative of the Jewish people. The public and political face of European Jews. But is this the kind of person we want to represent our people? Does he embody our values? Can we trust him as our leader?

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