Russian Jewish billionaire to donate $100 million for Ukrainian refugee aid

JTA — Yuri Milner, a Russian-Jewish entrepreneur who made billions in Silicon Valley with early Kremlin backing, is pledging to donate $100 million to new efforts to help Ukrainian refugees.

Unlike other billionaires whose wealth is tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Milner has managed to avoid Western sanctions meant to punish Russia for waging war on its neighbor, and his latest donation serves to further alienate him from the Kremlin.

A citizen of both Russia and Israel who lives in California, Milner and his wife Julia are best known in the world of philanthropy for establishing the Breakthrough Prize to recognize and promote scientific achievement. But they have also become major donors to various causes in Israel.

Among the beneficiaries of the Milners in Israel are the emergency response agency Magen David Adom, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and the Peres Center for Peace.

Ukraine’s new relief efforts, called Tech for Refugees, involve a partnership between Milner’s Breakthrough Prize Foundation and private companies, including short-term housing from Airbnb, hospital beds and emergency medical supplies from Flexport, and the music streaming service Spotify.

“We have been devastated by the heartbreaking suffering of the Ukrainian people,” the Milners said in a statement. “We believe this initiative, in partnership with some of the world’s most creative tech companies and organizations, can provide practical assistance to people living in turmoil outside their home countries.”

Other Russian Jewish philanthropists like Roman Abramovich and the billionaire trio behind the Genesis Prize have faced Western sanctions in recent weeks, even after announcing donations for relief in Ukraine. But their ties to Putin are seen as far more immediate and recent than those of Milner, who says he severed ties with the Kremlin years ago.

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