Igor Volobuev, the vice president of Gazprombank, has announced that he left Russia in March to fight with Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Force. He denounced the war with Ukraine, and also said that he thought a series of deaths of Russian top executives were linked.
Before starting at Gazprombank, Volobuev led Gazprom’s press office, working for the state-owned oil giant and its daughter companies for over 30 years.
But he told independent news site The Insider that he had left Russia for Ukraine shortly after the Russian invasion, drawn by the compulsion to defend his homeland. Volobuev explained that he was born and raised in the north-eastern Ukrainian town of Okhtyrka.
“I could no longer stand on the sidelines watching what Russia was doing to my homeland. Coming here is a form of repentance – I want to atone for my Russian past. I want to stay in Ukraine until victory is ours,” Volobuev said.
Gazprombank is Russia’s third-largest lender. It has close ties with the energy industry, and was sanctioned by the USA on the day Russia invaded Ukraine. It wasn’t sanctioned by Europe or the UK, though, because they needed to keep paying for gas imports.
“People I had known since childhood told me they were ashamed of me,” Volobuev said, explaining the decision to leave Russia and effectively quit his post at Gazprombank.
Speaking to Ukrainian business news website liga.net, he added that he could no longer bear to work for Gazprombank. “I couldn’t be around those people any longer. Couldn’t shake their hands, smile at them, watch this war unfold on my phone screen like some awful movie, and all the while pretend that this didn’t concern me.” Volobuev admitted that he bore some responsibility for the situation, adding: “I worked for the Russian authorities for so long.”
Volobuev is not the first top Russian executive to have left Russia since the outbreak of war. Lev Khasis, first deputy chairman of the board of Sberbank, left the country after nine years working for Russia’s biggest lender. Aeroflot’s deputy CEO Andrei Panov also relocated and stepped down after news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine broke.
In his interviews published late Tuesday (April 26) night on liga.net and The Insider, Volobuev said that he considered a series of deaths of Russian executives involved in the energy field to have been murders.
On April 18, a former Gazprombank vice president Vladislav Avaev was found dead in his Moscow home along with his wife and daughter. The following day, Sergey Protosenya, the top manager of Russia’s second-largest gas company, Novatek, was found dead in a Spanish villa under similar circumstances. Mr Protosenya’s wife and daughter had also been killed.
Volobuev, who knew former Gazprombank executive Avaev, questioned the official explanation of the deaths as consecutive murder-suicides.
“I don’t believe that those were suicides,” Volobuev told liga.net. He said that his own life was not under threat in Russia, and this was not why he left. Quite the contrary, he enjoyed a very stable life and good pay in Russia. But he added: “I don’t believe that [Avaev] could kill his own wife and daughter. I think he was framed. Why? It’s difficult to say. Maybe he knew something which put him in danger.”