Russian oligarchs should sell Evraz shares so company avoids sanctions: Regina mayor

"To me that is actually the way out of this," Sandra Masters said.

'To me that is actually the way out of this,' Sandra Masters said

Evraz share prices have tanked after Russia invaded Ukraine. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Regina Mayor Sandra Masters says the simplest way to prevent sanctions against Evraz, a steel company partially owned by Russian oligarchs that is also one of the city's largest employers, would be for the oligarchs to sell their shares in the company.

"To me that is actually the way out of this in terms of the balance between needing to support Ukraine and accepting those sanctions and protecting the employment and the … livelihood of those workers," Masters said in an interview this weekend on CBC's The House.

Masters was responding to comments Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland made last week when she told reporters Canadian companies could be collateral damage as countries sanction everything from oligarchs to sports teams in a bid to squeeze Russian President Vladimir Putin following his invasion of Ukraine.

Evraz employs about 1,700 people at a Regina facility that produces carbon steel slabs and pipe used in oil and gas pipelines.

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich holds 28.6 percent of Evraz shares, making him the largest stakeholder, while three other oligarchs also have shares.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department,  Abramovich has direct ties to Putin. 

"Everything is on the table and we are looking carefully at the holdings of oligarchs in Canada," Freeland told reporters when asked directly about slapping sanctions on Evraz.

Abramovich has recently capitulated to the threat of sanctions, announcing plans to sell the Chelsea football club he owns rather than see the team sanctioned.

Masters said if Abramovich and the three other oligarchs sold their Evraz shares, it would prevent the steel company from facing sanctions.

"A disruption in the contracts or any sanctions would have a significant impact on our workforce here," Masters said.

"It would be foolish not to be worried that Evraz would not be one of them."

LISTEN | Regina Mayor Sandra Masters appeared on CBC's The House to discuss Evraz: 
Canada wants to put sanctions on more Russian oligarchs, and that could have economic repercussions on their businesses here. Regina mayor Sandra Masters speaks about risks for workers of a steel company connected to oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Representatives from Evraz did not respond to interview requests.

Evraz saw its share price plummet around 90 per cent on the London Stock Exchange the week after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Evraz share prices plummeted following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (London Stock Exchange)

Masters said that about 30,000 people of Ukrainian descent live in Regina and her office is hearing from people wanting to support the country.

"When we open up to globalization, there's repercussions or consequences to be paid for investments from potential aggressor nations," she told CBC.

Masters said if sanctions are imposed against Evraz and jobs are ultimately lost, workers could hopefully find employment at one of the new canola crush or biodiesel plants to be built in Regina.

"We're hopeful that if Evraz steel comes under a crunch there will be a workforce transition into a labour shortage frankly in terms of the needs on other projects."


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