Leonid Nevzlin
Getty Images | Nicholas Kamm

Russian Billionaire Calls His Citizenship 'A Stamp Of Shame' Over Ukraine Invasion

Taking a political stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a risky move for a long time. Journalists and opponents alike have been forced to flee the nation, and some have wound up dead, so dissent comes with real consequences — which means it required great courage.

And that's something to remember with Russians living abroad during this time of war — many have fled Putin's Russia and want nothing to do with him or his war. They don't deserve any derision; rather, they deserve respect.

One prominent opponent of Putin has now gone so far as to renounce his citizenship altogether over the invasion of Ukraine.

Leonid Nevzlin had a pretty good life set up for himself in Russia.

leonid nevzlin
Facebook | Leonid Nevzlin

As the co-founder of oil giant Yukos, Nevzlin could have lived a fabulous, cozy life as a Russian oligarch, the powerful billionaires known for controlling large swaths of Russian industries, as well as for floating around the globe on massive yachts.

But he and his business partner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, ran afoul of Putin in the early 2000s.

Leonid Nevzlin behind bars
Facebook | Leonid Nevzlin

Khodorkovsky ended up spending a decade in prison on tax evasion and fraud charges. During the trial, Nevzlin fled to Israel, and was later sentenced to life in prison for murder and financial crimes, which he has consistently denied, and for which Israel has never extradited him back to Russia.

So Nevzlin certainly has reason to distrust Vladimir Putin.

leonid nevzlin
Facebook | Leonid Nevzlin

"I was one of the first to be hit by Putin. He threw my friends in jails, and killed some of them," he wrote in a recent Facebook post. "Everything Putin touches dies."

It is one thing to oppose your country's leader, and another entirely to renounce your country.

Leonid Nevzlin
Facebook | Leonid Nevzlin

But that's just what the Ukraine invasion has finally led Nevzlin to do, as he announced in his Facebook post.

"I, Leonid Nevzlin, refuse Russian citizenship," he wrote. "All these years, like many, I've been compromising keeping this passport."

"Russian citizenship has already become a stamp of shame on itself, which I no longer want to wear on myself. Enough is enough."

Renouncing his citizenship might be a symbolic gesture, but Russian elites like Nevzlin are increasingly standing up to Putin.

Russian flag
Unsplash | Sam Oxyak

The invasion of Ukraine, and the sanctions imposed by the West as a result, has been a turning point for many influential figures in Russia. Billionaires like Oleg Deripaska and Mikhail Fridman, who were targeted by the sanctions, might not have come out strictly against Putin, but they have called for peace.

Vladimir Lisin, a steel billionaire, has been more vocal.

In a letter to his employees, Lisin called the lives lost in the conflict "a tragedy that was hard to justify" and called for a diplomatic resolution, Reuters reported.

Whether pressure from Russia's elites gathers steam and helps end the conflict remains to be seen, however.