Russia escalates war on seized western assets, transferring local Danone, Carlsberg units

Russia named a relative of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and an ally of President Vladimir Putin to head the seized local operations of France’s Danone SA and Denmark’s Carlsberg A/S.

Yakub Zakriev, 32, who’s Chechnya’s agriculture minister, is now listed as general director of Danone Russia, according to the official Spark-Interfax disclosure service. He’s a nephew of Kadyrov, the Chechen ruler who’s a protege of Putin and who has been repeatedly accused of human rights violations in the southern Russian republic.

The Federal Property Management Agency also appointed Taimuraz Bolloyev to lead Carlsberg’s Baltika Brewing Co., according to a spokesman for the Russian company. Russia’s RBC and Vedomosti newspapers reported the appointments earlier.

“Putin is distributing assets to his vassals,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. The takeovers represent “a kind of oligarchic state capitalism that does not exist outside of ties with the state. And certainly it will result in less efficiency in the economy.”

Russia on Sunday seized control of the local subsidiaries of Danone and Carlsberg under a decree Putin signed in April. The decree allowed for the assets of companies or individuals from “unfriendly” nations to be taken over by the state in response to similar moves or the threat of them by those countries. The yogurt maker and the brewer had both been trying to leave Russia. 

The change to the management of the brewery has “been made without the knowledge or approval by Carlsberg Group,” the company said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “It is unclear to Carlsberg Group what implications this development will have on the ongoing operations of Baltika Breweries in Russia as well as the current sales process.”

Bolloyev, 70, who previously headed Baltika from 1991 to 2004, is president of a clothing company that became the sole supplier for Russia’s army in 2012, Vedomosti reported Tuesday. Putin appointed him as head of the Olimpstroy state corporation that built sports facilities for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. 

Bolloyev was also a campaign representative for Putin in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Together with Putin and billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg, the president’s childhood friend, Bolloyev is a member of the board of the Yavara-Neva judo club in St. Petersburg. 

Previously, Russia used the powers to take control of utilities owned by Finland’s Fortum Oyj and Germany’s Uniper SE in April. Days later, officials who had worked in state-run oil producer Rosneft PJSC, headed by Putin’s ally Igor Sechin, were appointed to run both units.

–With assistance from Andy Hoffman.

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