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OPINION

VTB: Putin unwrapped

Andrey Kostin is famously fond of a provocative joke.

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In 2016, the flamboyant VTB chairman Andrey Kostin dressed up in white tie and tails to conduct a “sanctions symphony” for attendees at the bank’s Russia Calling investment forum in Moscow. 

The following year he raised eyebrows by appearing as Stalin under a banner that read “Investors of the world unite”. Last year, slightly less controversially, he was Obi-Wan Kenobi combatting the “Death Star” that has “tried to scare the Republic with sanctions”. 

It is tempting to see the refreshments on offer in his lavish office at the top of VTB’s Moscow City tower as symptomatic of the same sense of humour. 

The man accused by journalists of being “Putin’s banker” for his alleged role in supporting Kremlin-backed projects – a charge he vehemently denies – presents Euromoney with a plate of sweets and presses us to eat the pièce de resistance, a quartet of gaudily wrapped chocolates bearing the image of Russia’s president. 

Your correspondents, however, preferred to preserve them for posterity – well, one of them did. The other got peckish on the way to Sheremetyevo airport…