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Countess Alexandra Tolstoy on life after oligarch ex fled to France

Alexandra Tolstoy whose oligarch ex was dubbed ‘Putin’s banker’ says she and her three children spent months ‘living out of bags while camping with kind friends’ after being ‘evicted’ from £12M London mansion they shared

  • The family were forced to leave her £12million home in London after it was seized
  • Her ex was once dubbed ‘the Kremlin’s banker’ and was close to Vladimir Putin 
  • But he is now seen as a ‘traitor’ by Russian president and lives in exile in France 
  • He allegedly cut off Alexandra and their children who decided to stay in London

Countess Alexandra Tolstoy has revealed how she and her children lived ‘out of bags while camping with kind friends’ for months after being ‘evicted’ from the £12M mansion owned by her Russian billionaire ex.

The aristocrat shares children Aliosha, Ivan and Maria with financier Sergei Pugachev, who was once dubbed ‘the Kremlin’s banker’ and was close to Vladimir Putin before falling into disfavour. He is now seen as a ‘traitor’ by the Russian president. 

After arriving in the UK in 2011, he was accused of siphoning a fortune out of his finance house Mezhprombank. State creditors in Moscow pursued him in the British courts, claiming he embezzled hundreds of millions. 

The oligarch fled to France, where he remains, and was sentenced to two years in his absence by a High Court judge in 2016 for breaching court orders relating to hundreds of millions in allegedly stolen cash. 

Writing for the Telegraph, Alexandra accused her former husband of trying to ‘cajole and then force’ her into travelling to France with him, but said that ‘after years of living in fear’ she knew remaining in London with her family was the best decision. 

Countess Alexandra Tolstoy has revealed how she and her children lived ‘out of bags while camping with kind friends’ for months after being ‘evicted’ from the £12M mansion owned by her Russian billionaire ex (pictured) 

She claims the family were evicted from Pugachev’s £12million west London family mansion in May 2020 after reportedly being given just two weeks notice by the Russian government, who had repossessed the property (pictured) 

‘He cut us off financially and having prevented me from working for eight years, I was ill-equipped to cope alone’, said the Countess.  

She added: ‘The anxiety nearly broke me, but nothing would make me question my decision’.  

Alexandra, whose title descends from her father’s great-grandfather, Pavel Tolstoy-Miloslavsky, who was titled a Count for his services as the chamberlain to the last emperor, Nicolas II of Russia, was left caring for her three children alone. 

When the pandemic hit last year her budding travel business, offering bespoke trips across the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, came to a halt. 

The mother summer living out of suitcases with friends and with her parents in their country home in Oxfordshire (pictured) – where she spent lockdown in February

The aristocratic beauty, who shares children Aliosha, Ivan and Maria with financier Sergei Pugachev, is pictured at her parents’ home in Oxfordshire 

But the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ was when, she claims, the family were evicted from Pugachev’s £12million west London family mansion in May 2020 after reportedly being given just two weeks notice by the Russian government, who had repossessed the property. 

The mum admitted she felt ‘hopeless’ and was reduced to tears, spending the summer living out of suitcases with friends and with her parents in their country home in Oxfordshire – where she spent lockdown in February. 

Eventually she decided to auction off her furniture with Christies and rented a home in Battersea, south west London, where she launched interiors business, The Tolstoy Edit. 

From billionaire to broke: Who is Alexandra Tolstoy? 

Before she met Sergei, Alexandra was married to a penniless Cossack named Shamil Galimzyanov. The pair met whilst travelling along the Silk Road on horse in 1999. 

Tolstoy first met Sergei, then a Russian senator and trusted friend of Putin who had separated from his wife, when asked to give him English lessons while she was living in Moscow with Galimzyanov.

A year later, they met again at an awards ceremony attended by the Russian president. Within months, Tolstoy and was pregnant with Sergei’s child. They had three children together – Alexei, known as Aliosha, Ivan and Maria.

Alexandra is the eldest of Anglo-Russian historian and writer Nikolai Tolstoy’s four children. She grew up in Oxfordshire before going to Edinburgh University to study philosophy. She spent her gap year in Russia.  

Influenced by her Russian heritage and many years of travel across Central Asia, The Tolstoy Edit sells antiques and vintage textiles and rugs curated by Alexandra. 

She recently jetted off to Mykonos with her three children while working with a London-based holiday rental company.  

Alexandra’s ex husband Pugachev, 58, once owned two major shipyards, the world’s biggest mine and large chunks of real estate in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as the Mezhprombank, which he co-founded in the 1990s.

The couple met in 2008 after Sergei hired Alexandra to help improve his English while they were both living in Russia, where Sergei was once-close friends with Putin. 

Speaking of their relationship in a documentary that aired last year, Alexandra said: ‘When I met Sergei it was electric. It was amazing. 

‘I fell so in love with him. I’ve never felt such a connection to someone ever.’ 

Within a year of meeting, they had a baby and another on the way, and were living a life of luxury in London, Moscow and Paris. 

Alexandra said: ‘It was incredible, he would give me his credit card and I would go shopping, I had a private jet. I just had to pack my suitcase and I could go.’ 

The family moved between an array of properties including a £12million family home in Battersea, a 200-acre country estate in Hertfordshire, and a £40million beachfront villa in St Barts.

But in 2008, Sergei’s bank hit problems and the Russian bank bailed it out with $1 billion loan. 

Sergei, who left Russia in 2011, claims that after relations between him and Putin cooled, the Kremlin tried to seize or destroy his business empire.  

The Russians then accused him of profiting from vast sums of taxpayers’ money given to Mezhprombank by the Russian central bank at the height of the 2008 economic crisis. 

The Russian authorities froze his assets, put him on Interpol’s wanted list and obtained a court order in Britain forcing him to hand over his passports. 

By 2015, he was dividing his time between France and the family home in London and claimed to be number three on Kremlin’s hitlist. 

State creditors in Moscow pursued him in the British courts, claiming he embezzled hundreds of millions. 

The couple met in 2008 after Sergei hired Alexandra to help improve his English while they were both living in Russia, where Sergei was once-close friends with Putin

Pugachev fled to France before the 2016 High Court ruling in a case brought by Russia’s Deposit Insurance Agency, in which he was sentenced for 12 breaches of court orders connected to a freezing order imposed on him over attempts to recover the cash.

In the February 2016 High Court judgment, no ruling was made on the allegations of embezzled cash and Pugachev told the court he had ‘not stolen any money’. 

In her judgment jailing him, Mrs Justice Rose noted he ‘does have a genuine fear that his life is in danger from agents of the Russian state’.

Anne-Jessica Faure, a lawyer for Mr Pugachev, said there has been no court decision establishing financial wrongdoing by him. 

On the order of the High Court, the family home was put on the market and Alexandra made a deal with the Russian government to drop her claim to his fortune. 

WHO IS SERGEI  PUGACHEV? 

Sergei Pugachev once owned two major shipyards, the world’s biggest mine and large chunks of real estate in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as the Mezhprombank, which he co-founded in the 1990s.

He enjoyed a close relatinship with Vladimir Putin, and in 2008 when Sergei’s bank hit problems, the Russian state bailed it out with $1 billion loan.

Sergei amassed enormous wealth from his companies, and lived a lavish lifestyle before becoming an enemy of the Russian state 

Sergei, who left Russia in 2011, claims that relations between him and Putin cooled, due to his relationship with the Russian leader calling him a ‘traitor’ for dating ‘English woman’ Alexandra, the Kremlin tried to seize or destroy his business empire.  

The Russians then accused him of profiting from vast sums of taxpayers’ money given to Mezhprombank by the Russian central bank at the height of the 2008 economic crisis. 

It has since been pursuing Sergei Pugachev through the High Court claiming he illegally siphoned hundreds of millions of pounds from the government bailout of the Mezhprombank.

Authorities froze his assets, put him on Interpol’s wanted list and obtained a court order in Britain forcing him to hand over his passports.

By 2015, he was dividing his time between France and the family home in London and reputed to be number 3 on Kremlin’s hitlist.

Mr Pugachev denies the allegations and claims Moscow is trying to steal £11billion of his assets, including two shipyards and the world’s largest mine. 

He has previously been declared to be in contempt of court, with a two-year prison sentence left hanging over his head should he return to this country.

He had been living in France for the past five years after being ordered to give up his passports in 2014. 

In Nice, he was visited by the DIA who demanded repayment of the billion dollar loan and threatened his family, saying they could ‘cut off his son’s finger and send it back to him.’ 

He also claims ‘credible attempts’ had been made on his life in the UK. 

The tycoon is in another legal battle with Russia in The Hague where he is suing the Federation for £11billion.

He claims he is being targeted because of his knowledge of state secrets.

Sergei said he enjoyed a ‘very close’ friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin before falling out, with the politician calling Sergei ‘a traitor’ for dating an ‘English woman’

 

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