The Countess and the Russian Billionaire: English socialite falls apart after her husband cuts her off
An English countess tells in a new BBC documentary how she ‘lost’ herself in a ‘vulgar’ lavish life during her relationship with a Russian oligarch.
Aristocratic beauty Alexandra Tolstoy, 45, daughter of Count Nikolai Tolstoy and a distant relationship of author Leo Tolstoy, fell in love with billionaire Sergei Pugachev, 57, while working as his English teacher in Russia.
The couple had three children together, and Alexandra enjoyed all the trappings of a billionaire’s girlfriend – the couple never married – including unlimited credit card shopping and private jet trips between their homes in Moscow, Paris, London, and St Barts.
In the TV documentary The Countess and the Russian Billionaire, which airs on BBC2 on Wednesday, Alexandra recounts how her world collapsed when Pugachev fled to France for fear of his life after the Kremlin issued an arrest warrant and claimed that he stands $ 1 billion.
Alexandra Tolstoy, 45, and Sergei Pugachev, 57, were followed for five years by cameras for the documentary The Countess and the Russian Billionaire, which airs on BBC2 on Wednesday at 9 p.m.
She calls her old life “vulgar and not me” and says, “As an adult you can lose yourself. I really never thought I could lose myself. But I am 45, I am not old and actually I have my whole life ahead and this is who I am. ‘
The former couple, who have admitted cameras in their lives for the documentary for five years, are now completely estranged. Pugachev has cut Alexandra and their children off financially, she claims, and is now facing ‘nothing’ after the Kremlin threatened to evict them from their £ 12 million mansion in London.
“My biggest fear is that we can’t live anywhere and have no money,” she says to the camera. “It’s really stressful, it’s a nightmare.”
When filming started in 2015, Alexandra offered cameras a tour of her lavish home in Battersea, south London, where her neighbors were Brian Ferry. “We have a PA, two housekeepers, two drivers, an English babysitter, a Russian babysitter and a French tutor,” she says.
Sergei once owned two major shipyards, the world’s largest mine and large property 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 improve his English while they both lived in Russia, where Sergei was once close friends with Putin.
Sergei said he had a “ very close ” friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin before arguing with the state
She tells about her relationship with her husband on camera: ‘When I met Sergei, it was electric. It was amazing. I fell in love with him so much. I have never felt such a connection with anyone. ‘
But when Sergei revealed to Putin’s “very good friend” that he was dating an English woman, the Russian leader was “very surprised.”
WHO IS ALEXANDRA TOLSTOY?
Before meeting Sergei, Alexandra was married to a destitute Cossack named Shamil Galimzyanov.
The couple met on a trip along the Silk Road in 1999.
He was an Uzbek show jumper and worked as a guide during the trip. They married in London in 2003.
Tolstoy first met Sergei, then a Russian senator and a trusted friend of Putin who had divorced his wife, when asked to teach English lessons while living in Moscow with Galimzyanov.
A year later, they met again at an awards ceremony attended by the Russian President.
Within a few months, Tolstoy was pregnant with Sergei’s child. They had three children together – Alexei, known as Aliosha, Ivan and Maria.
Alexandra is the oldest of the Anglo-Russian historian and writer Nikolai Tolstoy’s four children.
She grew up in Oxfordshire before attending Edinburgh University to study philosophy. She spent her gap year in Russia.
She has also taken extensive horseback riding tours through Mongolia and Siberia and organizes horseback riding holidays in Central Asia as a writer.
Alexandra said, “Many of these problems are because he’s with me. At some point, Putin said to him, “You are a traitor.” ‘
Putin’s frustration with the relationship did not stop him from having a baby and another on the way within a year of the meeting and living a luxurious life in London, Moscow and Paris.
Alexandra said, “It was incredible, he gave me his credit card and I went shopping, I had a private jet. I just had to pack my suitcase and I could go. ‘
The family moved between a range of properties, including a £ 12 million family home in Battersea, a 200-acre estate in Hertfordshire and a £ 40 million beachfront villa in St Barts.
Alexandra revealed, “All that money meant I didn’t have to work, clean, I could spend as much time with my kids as possible.”
But in 2008, Sergei’s bank got into trouble and the Russian bank paid it with a $ 1 billion loan.
Sergei, who left Russia in 2011, claims that after the relations between him and Putin cooled, the Kremlin tried to seize or destroy his business empire.
The Russians then accused him of taking advantage of huge sums of taxpayers’ money that the Russian central bank had given to Mezhprombank at the height of the 2008 economic crisis.
The Russian authorities have frozen his assets, put him on Interpol’s wish list and obtained a court order in Great Britain requiring him to issue his passports.
By 2015, he split his time between France and the London family home and was known as number 3 on the Kremlin charts.
The billionaire revealed, “Clearly this is a war. I need bodyguards to feel safe. It is not a whim, it is a necessity of life. ‘
Alexandra breaks into documentary admitting she is terrified of becoming homeless after her relationship with Sergei broke up
In Nice, he was visited by the DIA, who demanded repayment of the billion-dollar loan and threatened his family, saying he could cut off his son’s finger and send him back.
Meanwhile, the London family became aware that they were being followed. Police later discovered GPS trackers on their cars.
Sergei was summoned back to the Supreme Court in London, but remained in France, and decided to take on the Russian state and sue them for his $ 12 billion assets.
Alexandra says: ‘I am very afraid of Sergei and of me and the children. especially in London … but I chose him and I chose this life and I love him. It is my choice. ”
Sergei was accused by the Russian state of stealing $ 1 billion and became an enemy of the country (shown with Putin during their friendship)
Alexandra said her partner had a fight with Putin after they started dating, with politician Sergei calling ‘a traitor’
In December 2015, three police officers arrived late at night looking for Sergei, with a search and arrest warrant, leaving Alexandra terrified of staying in the country.
She said, “I feel so out of hand. I do not regret it [my relationship with Sergei] because I love my kids so much, I really love Sergei.
WHO IS SERGEI PUGACHEV?
The Russian state pursued Sergei Pugachev through the Supreme Court, claiming that he had illegally transferred hundreds of millions of pounds from a state aid to the Mezhprombank he co-founded.
Pugachev denies the allegations, claiming that Moscow is trying to steal £ 11 billion of his assets, including two shipyards and the world’s largest mine.
Mr Pugachev has been previously convicted of contempt of court, with a two-year prison sentence on his mind when he returns to this country.
He had lived in France for the past five years after being instructed to give up his passports in 2014 and freeze his assets.
He also claims that there have been “credible attempts” in his life in the UK.
The magnate is in a new legal battle with Russia in The Hague, where he is suing the Federation for £ 11 billion.
He claims to be the target for his knowledge of state secrets.
“We have had a very turbulent relationship and I regret that my children have not been more peaceful and quiet.”
She burst into tears, adding, “Some people look at me and think,” Your life is so easy. Your children are so privileged. ‘
“But the most privileged education is to be in a safe family unit where you are all together.”
Later that month, Sergei was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for leaving the country without permission. When he sets foot in the UK, he goes straight to prison.
But while Sergei continues to live in Nice, Alexandra admits the castle makes her feel “too isolated” and opposes the family’s move to France.
She said, “I think I’m just concerned about how our future as a family works.
“Sergei wants us to live in France and I don’t know if I can really do that. Everything in life that you can deal with, if you have any idea what is going to happen.
“But I just have no idea what’s going to happen and I just found that very stressful. That I can’t plan or figure out what’s going to happen. ‘
Alexandra abruptly leaves the castle in the spring of 2016, claiming that Sergei ‘physically attacked her’ before locking the children in one room and hiding her passport.
She said, “Something broke into me and I said,” I can never do this again. ” At the time, I was hesitant, I was going to live there, but that was just the end. ‘
Meanwhile, Sergei revealed, “She was safe, I arranged everything for her. Even a private plane, but she said no, I’m taking a BA flight, we’ll be back in two weeks. And she never came back. My children’s mother stole them. ‘
Alexandra played with moving to France to be in exile with Sergei in the country, but eventually decided to stay in the UK (photo)
The Countess was devastated after Sergei cut off her family completely financially and was terrified that she and her children would be unable to live anywhere
In London, Alexandra lives in fear of both the Russian state and Sergei, having seen someone outside her house 24 hours a day for six months.
She said, “He speaks very loudly in Russian. I think it’s really weird. It is the style of the person Sergei could spy on us. ‘
Now permanently separated, Sergei is consumed by his multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Russian lawyers.
Sergei once owned two large shipyards, the world’s largest mine and large property in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, as well as the Mezhprombank, which he co-founded in the 1990s
The kids have not seen their father since they left France in 2016, while Alexandra said Sergei cut her off completely financially.
She said, “Our relationship doesn’t really exist, except that he occasionally writes insulting emails to me.
“He’s accusing me of working with the Russian government, saying I’m a KGB spy. He thinks that because I went to the family court and filed a lawsuit. Clearly, he never paid a penny of that maintenance. He cut us off completely. ‘
By order of the Supreme Court, the family home is put on the market, Alexandra makes a deal with the Russian government to drop her claim on his fortune.
Sergei amassed tremendous wealth from his businesses and lived a lavish lifestyle before becoming an enemy of the Russian state
After Sergei cut her off, Alexandra returned to organizing travel holidays and working as a writer, calling her old lifestyle ‘vulgar’
She revealed, “The Russian government said to me, ‘If you agree to give up your maintenance, we’ll let you stay in the house for a year.’ What am I supposed to do? I signed the agreement or left the next day. ‘
Alexandra tries to support herself and the children by writing and reviving her old travel business, but after a year her deal with the Russian government comes to an end.
49.53 Alexandra said she felt she had ‘lost’ herself in her relationship with Sergei after regaining her independence
She says, “I sign a document every month saying I promise I’ll be out before the 31st. My biggest fear is that we have nowhere to live and no money. I’ve been trying to protect the kids … they know I don’t know where we’re going to live. ‘
Today, Alexandra and the children spend as much time as possible in her Oxfordshire cottage, with lawyers telling her not to take the children to France.
Meanwhile, Sergei remains isolated in France, while Alexandra refuses to let her children travel to see him
She said, “Of course the kids asked me,” Why doesn’t he ever come here? “so I told them he has a prison sentence here. And they say, “Why can’t we go there? And I say” It’s dangerous. his life is threatened “.”
She said she plans to tell her children about their father in the future, revealing, “I’m going to say he needs to fix the situation he’s in, and maybe when you’re older you can go find him yourself . And it is not your fault. ‘