By Bill Powell and Jessi Hempel
Alisher Usmanov is one of Vladimir Putin's "oligarchs," as the businessmen in Moscow with deep ties to the Kremlin have come to be called. That he is one of Putin's oligarchs is to say that he was not one of Boris Yeltsin's. In the early 1990s, Yeltsin's disciples got hugely rich buying formerly state-owned enterprises in Russia on the cheap. Usmanov was virtually unknown at that time but is now one of his country's richest men. Assets he controls are estimated to be worth anywhere from $8 billion to $10 billion. His empire includes stakes in a metals and mining company (Metalloinvest), traditional media (the Moscow daily newspaper Kommersant), telecom (cellphone company Megafon), the British soccer club Arsenal, and, through DST, social-media companies. A private-sector source who has looked extensively into Usmanov and his businesses estimates his personal wealth at about $1.5 billion.
The issue with Usmanov is the question of provenance. How is it that a man who served time in Uzbekistan later found his way to the position of deputy CEO of Gazprominvestholding, the investment arm of energy giant Gazprom, the most powerful and politically connected company in Russia?
A native of Uzbekistan, the former Soviet republic due south of Russia, Usmanov was born in 1953. His father was the deputy prosecutor general of Uzbekistan, a powerful position in the legal field. Nonetheless, in 1980, Usmanov was convicted on charges of fraud and extortion in Tashkent, the country's capital, and sentenced to eight years in jail. He served six of those -- from 1980 to 1986 -- before a Soviet court dismissed the charges against him and expunged his record. In 2000 the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan ruled that the original charges against him had been unjust. More
Much ballyhooed satellite navigation system suffers technical setbacks and paucity of devices. Who will guide Father Frost?
By Julia Ioffe, contributor
Late last month Moscow celebrated the birthday of Father Frost, the Russian iteration of Santa Claus, with a new-fangled announcement: Father Frost's retinue would move through the holiday skies aided by Glonass, the Russian answer to GPS.
Eagerly waiting children could track his movement online, while he could simultaneously improve his gift-giving MOREDec 1, 2009 11:08 AM ET
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