Vladimir Potanin, president of metals giant Norilsk Nickel and its biggest shareholder said, that he categorically opposed the expropriation of the property of foreign companies that had announced their withdrawal from Russia.
“Confiscation [of assets] is a hidden or overt form of theft. It destroys the investment climate of the jurisdiction in which it occurs. The countries of the “collective West,” which built their society on certain values, among which the cornerstone was respect for private property, are destroying it in vain, and it will hit them. And we don’t need to repeat it. Why repeat the mistakes of others?” he told Russia’s RBC television.
Potanin drew attention to the negative experience of property confiscations Russia received after 1917.
“We have already received our inoculation in 1917. And everyone remembers what it led to. Disrespect for people’s personal freedoms and the right to property led to bad consequences cumulatively. So you just have to be able to refrain from it,” he stressed.
“Respect for property rights is what entrepreneurial activity is built on, what motivates people. And depriving them of this kind of motivation is a very harmful thing,” Potanin believes.
Potanin speaks out sharply against the confiscation of property from Russians who have left the country.
“The programmers left, and now there’s a debate about whether to let them back in. People left, they must have had some reason for that. But most of them continue to work for our country, our economy, our companies. Some of them will come back, some of them won’t. So why push them out and drive them away? They will get hired by other companies. It is our strength, not a weakness – their brains, the ability to produce a product,” said Potanin.
He reminded that Russia has only 20% of its own software, and in the new environment it needs the intellectual potential of domestic specialists to close the gap.
“At the expense of what we will restore the damage that sanctions have done to our economy? We will restore it, first of all, at the expense of people who are able to do it, so we have to respect their beliefs, which may be somewhat disliked by more patriotically-minded people. Tolerance should be shown,” he says.
Mr. Potanin is convinced that there is no point in punishing people who work for the country’s economy from abroad or remotely.
“These guys who left, they’re contributing, they’re making their own product that we really need. I would not discriminate against them in any way, at least not for a long enough period of time.
Russians who have left the country should be given the opportunity to “feel, understand, try,” says Potanin.
“Taking away property and branding people prematurely, I think, is a sign of weakness. And we are a strong country, a strong nation… So we have to make strong moves, not weak ones. Violating property rights is an impulsive, weak move. And punishing people for working, let’s say, from Yerevan or even from some Germany for our economy is also an impulsive, populist move,” Potanin concluded.
Potanin was placed on a U.S. sanctions list last month. He had already been targeted by Britain and Canada.