Putin abandoned as oligarch former ally plots to STRIP him of key energy asset

Zelensky urges Russians to speak out against Putin

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Karel Komárek, a billionaire oil and gas tycoon is in talks with the government of the Czech Republic this month over plans to nationalise the Moravia gas storage facility.

In a blow to Putin, half of the company is owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The facility is the only Russian backed storage depot in the Czech Republic, and losing it would deprive Putin of a vital asset in Europe.

The move would be a first for European powers seizing a Russian state-controlled asset on the continent.

In a clear sign Mr Komárek is distancing himself from the Kremlin, a spokesman for the Czech oligarch, who owns significant shares in Royal Mail, West Ham United Football Club and Sainsbury’s said: “Our company and its shareholders condemn the military aggression against Ukraine.

“Through our foundation, we actively help with the supply of medicine and medical supplies to Ukraine.

“We will fully respect all agreements and economic sanctions.”

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, multiple nations and companies have imposed crippling economic sanctions on Russian oligarchs and officials.

Many companies have also ceased trading with Russia, ranging from Apple and Samsung to Adidas and Nike.

The European Union, US and Canada have also banned Russian airline Aeroflot from using its airspace.

Mr Komárek, who is worth a healthy £5.9bn built his fortune in the oil and gas industry throughout the 1990s.

In the UK, he has set his sights on becoming a contender to run the National Lottery.

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Mr Komárek, who had long-standing ties to Russia through a series of joint venture interests with Gazprom, has offloaded joint venture interests inside Russia in recent years.

Last week the Czech billionaire published an open letter in which he said he was “horrified by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

He said: “It is a senseless act of aggression that must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and we are doing all we can to support the brave Ukrainians impacted by the barbarism of Vladimir Putin’s regime.”

The European Commission is planning to set a target for 80 percent of storage capacity within the bloc to be filled by September 30, up from the current level of 29 percent, so it is better able to weather next winter without depending on Russia.

Elon Musk, the founder of electric carmaker Tesla, yesterday threw his weight behind the West ramping back up its production of fossil fuels.

He said: “Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil and gas output.

“Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.”

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Europe is currently undergoing an energy crisis as uncertainty spirals over gas supplies to the continent.

Already, the US, Qatar and Iran have offered to ship liquefied natural gas to Europe.

With many now making space between themselves and Moscow, the race is on to avoid sanctions, and punish the Russian economy.

A spokesman for Mr Komárek said: “Mr Komárek chose to divest out of Russia some years ago.

“Since 2014 Mr Komárek has been investing in Ukraine, not Russia.

“His feelings are firm and heartfelt, not least because of having lived under Soviet occupation growing up.”

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