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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

8 Russians Named on Forbes' Rich List

Oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky is the wealthiest man in Russia with an accumulated fortune of $2.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's richest people released Friday.

Seven other Russians — including two former Gazprom officials — are also counted on the list, giving Russia the most billionaires on the list since Forbes first included Russians in 1997.

The list is topped by Microsoft Co. founder Bill Gates, who has held the magazine's title as the world's wealthiest man since 1998.

Khodorkovsky, who at 38 heads the country's second-largest oil company, Yukos, is in 194th place. The second most wealthy Russian according to Forbes is Vladimir Potanin, president of the Interros financial-industrial group and the only Russian billionaire to make Forbes listings for a third time. This year Potanin is ranked 272nd with $1.8 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 1998 and $700 million in 1997.

No Russians were included on the Forbes lists in 1999 and 2000.

This year, Surgutneftegaz head Vladimir Bogdanov is the third most wealthy Russian on the list, ranked 312th with $1.6 billion, former Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev is 336th with $1.5 billion and oil and media tycoon Roman Abramovich is 363rd with $1.4 billion.

LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov and Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman are tied at 387th with $1.3 billion each, while former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin rounds out the list at 452nd with $1.1 billion.

The overall list of this year's billionaires grew to 538 members up from 482 last year because Forbes for the first time included all billionaires; previously it counted only the "working rich" billionaires to differentiate between those who ran businesses and those who were living off their wealth.

The magazine, which keeps tight-lipped about its calculations, said only that it had estimated the wealth of billionaires with publicly traded fortunes by using share prices and exchange rates from May 21 to calculate net worth. The value of art collections and real estate was also added when possible.

The Russians on the list have been mum for years about their personal assets.

Abramovich's ranking as the fifth richest Russian — well behind four oil and energy tycoons — contradicts earlier media reports naming the 34-year-old as the wealthiest man in Russia with estimated personal assets of more than $2 billion.

Abramovich controls No. 5 oil company Sibneft and last year acquired a major stake in Russian Aluminum, the world's second-largest aluminum producer, and 49 percent of ORT, the country's No. 1 television station. He is also the governor of the Chukotka region.

Forbes had little good to say about the Russians on the list other than that Khodorkovsky had wisely invested into his business and Bogdanov, who runs No. 3 oil company Surgutneftegaz, was "a competent and honest industrial tycoon."

Here's what Forbes had to say about the other rich Russians on its list:

The magazine reported that Vyakhirev had built his fortune as chief executive of the Gazprom gas monopoly by acquiring stakes for himself and his family in the company and its subsidiaries. Vyakhirev was ousted from his post by President Vladimir Putin last month amid reports in The Moscow Times and other media documenting improprieties at Gazprom.

"There's enough money sloshing around Gazprom for Vyakhirev and his children to take a big chunk without rocking the boat," Forbes said. "Together they have a stake in the parent company, as well as in the sales and distribution companies, equipment importers, construction and financial companies that service this unwieldy giant."

Forbes said that the 51-year-old LUKoil head, Alekperov, "used his close friendship with the fuel and energy minister to muscle into lucrative oil deals around the Caspian Sea in the early 1990s."

Chernomyrdin, who founded Gazprom and served as prime minister from 1992 to 1998, "missed out on much of the privatization windfall, but not all of it," Forbes said. "He and his family own significant Gazprom stakes and related properties."

Chernomyrdin was appointed Russia's ambassador to Ukraine in May and is expected to handle disputes such as the theft and nonpayment of Russian gas at his new post in Kiev.

He was named Russia's wealthiest man in March 1997 by the French newspaper Le Monde, which put his wealth at $5 billion.

He has repeatedly denied reports of his vast personal wealth.

Chernomyrdin was the only billionaire named by Forbes to publicly comment on the list, calling his ranking "nonsense."

"A few years ago they wrote that I had $5 billion, while now they write that I have $1.1 billion Where did the nearly $4 billion go? Who stole it?" Chernomyrdin told Interfax.

"If Forbes shows me where my $4 billion is, I will give $1 billion to the magazine and $100 million to Interfax," Chernomyrdin said.

The former prime minister's estimated $1.1 billion in wealth is just some $300 million less than the $1.4 billion Ukraine owes Russia for gas.

Russians first appeared on the Forbes list in 1997 when Boris Berezovsky was named the richest Russian, in 97th spot, with an accumulated wealth of $3 billion. He was then in a company of five other Russians including Khodorkovsky, Alekperov, Vyakhirev, Potanin and Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky. Gusinsky has lost much of his once-sprawling empire over the past year to creditor Gazprom.

Shortly before Forbes released its annual listings, Russian media reported that the magazine had bowed out of a lawsuit with Berezovsky over a 1996 article titled, "Is He the Godfather of the Kremlin?"

The unsigned story, among other allegations, described Berezovsky as a "powerful gangland lord" and indirectly linked him to the 1995 contract killing of Vladislav Listyev, a television celebrity who had been appointed chief executive at ORT shortly before his slaying.

Russian media reported that Forbes even paid $250,000 in court expenses to Berezovsky. Forbes 'Russian Gushers'