What Is a Russian Oligarch?

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues to escalate, people are asking about a term that has been used frequently as nations impose more sanctions: Russian oligarch.

The term "oligarchy" is used to describe a government that is controlled by a few, select people, "especially for corrupt or selfish purposes," according to Merriam Webster.

The term rose in popularity in both Russia and Ukraine around 1994 and referred to a "very wealthy and politically well-connected" businessman or billionaire who has close ties to the president.

Russian oligarchs, specifically, tend to have profited from the breakup of the Soviet Union, NBC News reported.

A number of people argue that governments across the globe, including the U.S., could be described as being run by oligarchs, according to reports.

In the latest attack in the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russian troops early Friday morning seized the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe after a middle-of-the-night move that set it on fire and briefly raised worldwide fears of a catastrophe in the most chilling turn yet in Moscow's invasion of the country.

Firefighters put out the blaze, and no radiation was released, U.N. and Ukrainian officials said, as Russian forces pressed on with their week-old offensive on multiple fronts and the number of refugees fleeing the country eclipsed 1.2 million.

While the vast Russian armored column threatening Kyiv remained stalled outside the capital, President Vladimir Putin’s military has launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites around the country, and made significant gains on the ground in the south in an apparent bid to cut off Ukraine's access to the sea.

Also on Friday, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major world powers said that those responsible for Russian military attacks on civilians in Ukraine must be held accountable for their crimes, amid reports of the use of cluster bombs and other banned munitions.

In a statement after talks in Brussels, the G7 ministers said they are “deeply concerned with the catastrophic humanitarian toll taken by Russia’s continuing strikes against the civilian population of Ukraine’s cities.”

They underlined that “indiscriminate attacks are prohibited by international humanitarian law,” and that they “will hold accountable those responsible for war crimes, including indiscriminate use of weapons against civilians.”

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