Who are the Russian oligarchs and why are they being targeted. : The Indicator from Planet Money Governments in the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom and other countries have placed harsh sanctions on Russian oligarchs. But they may have missed the most influential people in Putin's inner circle.

Of oligarchs and silovarchs

Of oligarchs and silovarchs

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Paul Gilham/Getty Images
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The word "oligarch" is a term that dates back to the time of Aristotle but in modern times is almost always used to describe wealthy Russian men with ties to Vladimir Putin. These men have been in the news in recent weeks because of the targeted sanctions placed on them by Western governments that limit their access to financial institutions and their luxury assets.

Today, we learn who these people are, how they became so wealthy, and why three generations of oligarchs have varying degrees of influence.

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Correction March 24, 2022

In an earlier version of this episode, we incorrectly stated the year that Russian President Vladimir Putin set about creating a new generation of oligarchs. It was in 2000, not 2020.