The Daily Show's Trevor Noah explains Russian oligarchs

"Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, America and Europe have been trying to find a balance between helping Ukraine while also avoiding going to war with Russia themselves, because nobody wants World War III — I mean, other than defense contractors and those people who sell merch in the trenches," Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show. "But one of the weapons the West has been using agents Russia is sanctions," and "one of the most significant sanctions America and Europe have imposed is going after oligarchs."

The oligarchs, Noah explained, are Russian billionaires who were gifted entire industries after the formerly communist Russia sold off state-owned assets — or were re-gifted those industries by Russian President Vladimir Putin when he took over in 2000. So now, "Europe and America are handling Putin the way you handle any breakup: by blocking him and all his friends," he added. "And you might be wondering: The oligarchs didn't start the war, they're not ordering troops to bomb hospitals, so why are they being targeted by the sanctions?"

The point is to make life harder for Putin's rich friends so they "talk some sense into him," Noah said. "And let's be honest, man, that's life: Rich people complaining is how sh-t always gets done." And there are signs the oligarchs are starting to complain, he added. "For a long time, it didn't matter that these borscht ballers kept all their wealth in the West, but that changed real quick when these sanctions started getting passed. And now they're all well aware that their assets are in bigger danger than Mike Pence at a Trump rally." But Roy Wood Jr. illustrated how the oligarchs have managed to keep their ill-gotten wealth so far, and might continue to do so.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.