License: All rights reserved. Credit: greenpeace

UK buys coal from Russian oligarchs with close ties to Putin

Lawrence Carter
License: All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

Russia's coal often comes from environmentally sensitive regions close to Siberia.

This story contained an error, please see correction below.

The UK spends nearly a billion pounds each year importing coal from Russia with the money going to a small clique of Russian firms with ties to the Kremlin, according to a Greenpeace investigation.

The news comes as UK government data shows energy imports - including coal - have reached a record high. The UK, in fact, imports more Russian coal than any other EU country according to EU data

An analysis of data from HMRC suggests the UK spent just under £1bn on coal imports from Russia in the last twelve months, though data on how much money goes to each company is not publicly available. The data was gathered using commodity codes for steam on the UK trade info site.

Despite mounting tension over the Ukraine crisis and increasing sanctions, coal imports from Russia have been rising, driven, in part, by demand from the UK’s big six power generators and coal plant operators.

By the first three months of this year more than half the UK’s coal imports came from Russian firms - amounting to over double domestic coal production.

The investigation found that the majority of Russia’s coal exports come from just three firms, SUEK, KRU and SDS Coal whose directors have close ties to the Kremlin and who have links to other Russian energy firms targeted by EU and US sanctions.

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The Siberian Coal Energy Company’s annual report notes that the UK has seen a big boost in coal demand. It is now the most important Western export market by far with 41% of “Atlantic” sales. In fact the UK is SUEK’s second most important export market globally, after China.

The firm’s chairman also has UK ties. Aside from his yacht and private Boeing 737 Andrew Melnichenko owns a home in Ascot, Berkshire.

Melnichenko also has connections to the the UK government. His long-standing advisor George Cardona, is a former special advisor to Geoffrey Howe.

Cardona has been on the board of Suek’s parent company and sits on the board of the firm that owns Melnichenko’s Berkshire mansion.  


Kuzbassrazrezugol  is majority-owned by a Russian  copper company headed by Iskander Makhmudov called UGMK (also known as UMMC).

KRU’s chairman, Andrei Bokarev, appears to be close to Putin, who awarded him the Alexander Nevsky prize for services to the Sochi Olympics in April. In fact, UGMK constructed the Olympic ice hockey stadium and has promised to give it to Putin for free.

Bokarev is involved as director, shareholder, or board member in three different companies placed under sanctions by the US - Kalashnikov, Rosneft, and Transoil.

KRU was set up by Makhmudov and controversial Israeli industrialist Michael Cherney, who is wanted on an Interpol international warrant for money laundering and organised crime.

Makhmudov and Michael Cherney were alleged to be party to a large-scale and violent racketeering scheme in order to take over and monopolise the Russian Aluminium sector.However the US court decided that it did not have jurisdiction over the dispute and they were never found guilty of any crime.

SDS Coal

SDS is headed by Vladimir Gridin and Mikhail Fedyaev.

The two are close associates of the Russian President. Gridin serves in the State Duma for Putin’s United Russia Party and is Deputy Chairman of the Transport Committee. Fedayev’s son is a member of the Russian parliament.

SDS is a subsidiary of the Siberian Business Union. On one occasion 39,000 SBU staff were signed up to the All Russia People’s Front, Vladimir Putin’s political movement, in a single day (BBC monitoring).

Additional reporting by Damian Kahya and Energydesk staff


The above article included reference to  Sergey Popov who was, at one time, a shareholder in SUEK. The article went on to claim that a Mr Popov was named by an expert witness at a High Court trial in London. The article should not have made a link between the two men. We have removed the reference from the story and sincerely apologise for the error.