The United States and European Union have imposed visa bans and
asset freezes on officials and businessmen believed to be close to
Russian President Vladimir Putin in protest at Moscow's annexation
of Ukraine's Crimea region.
Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, had said previously
that he planned to relocate the company that runs the NBA team to
Russia, but his comments to reporters in the Kremlin underlined his
support for Putin.
"A Russian company will own the basketball club," Prokhorov said
before receiving a medal for services to Russia along with other
national sports officials.
"This (move) does not violate any NBA (U.S. National Basketball
Association) rules and I will bring it (under Russian jurisdiction)
in accordance with Russian law."
The NBA said on Monday that it had not been notified of any changes
to the Nets' ownership.
"The Nets are owned by Mikhail Prokhorov through a U.S.-based
company," Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman, said in a statement. "We have
received no official application nor is there a process underway
through our office to transfer the ownership of the Nets to another
He did not say whether the NBA would oppose such a move.
Prokhorov has not been hit by Western sanctions and, although he ran
against Putin in the 2012 presidential election, he has underlined
his loyalty to the president.
Putin waged war on the so-called oligarchs who amassed political
influence as well as vast riches under former President Boris
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Some oligarchs have been driven out of Russia, former oil tycoon
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was jailed for more than a decade on financial
crimes charges and those who remained have largely stayed out of
Prokhorov, one of Russia's richest men, made his fortune by
acquiring former state assets during the chaotic years after the
1991 disintegration of the Soviet Union.
With an estimated $10.3 billion fortune, according to Forbes
magazine, Prokhorov has owned other sports clubs, including European
basketball powerhouse CSKA Moscow. But he sold most of them several
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York;
editing by Mark
Heinrich and Dan Grebler)
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