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The Wheely App of the Former Russian Governor’s Son May Be Subject to Sanctions for Ties to Putin’s Oligarchs

Anton Chirkunov, a CEO of an application for transporting passengers, has been waging war with the Moscow authorities for several months. Last year, during the coronavirus pandemic, Wheely refused to provide geolocation data and other information about drivers, having explained that these requirements did not correlate with corporate principles. However, the court blocked the business taxi aggregator, referring to the mayor’s decree “On Safety and Protection of the Health of Citizens from Coronavirus Infection”.

All this time, the company’s lawyers have been trying to appeal against the decision and declare the actions of the Government of Moscow illegal. In September 2020, Wheely founder Anton Chirkunov, relying on Swiss citizenship, asked British authorities for help. However, London parliamentarians decided not to side with the businessman.

Russian journalists have found out that Wheely was sponsored by oligarchs from Putin’s entourage, and the son of Oleg Chirkunov, the influential ex-governor of the Perm region, was trying to save the financial investments of his father and his comrades from the political past.

In particular, Artur Bilalov was elected the head of the Wheely European Office. He is the son of one of the Bilalov brothers — large Russian businessmen who were responsible for the construction of sports facilities for the Sochi 2014 Olympics and who are personally acquainted with Vladimir Putin and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Also, in 2019, Denis Shafranik, the son of the former Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, the ex-governor of the Tyumen Region, became one of the Wheely beneficiaries. Today Yuri Shafranik heads the Union of Oil and Gas Producers, as well as a large natural resource extraction company — an analog of Rosneft and Gazprom. His business partners turned out to be the parents of another owner of Wheely shares, Mikhail Sokolov.

Previously, Anton Chirkunov did business with Ilya Voloshin, a son of the ex-head of the Presidential Administration of Russia, and Artem Surkov, the child of a former aide to Putin. Today, oligarchs close to the Russian government are under economic sanctions. Wheely’s CEO is now at risk of being added to the same list.

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