Kremlin calls businessmen who criticise Russia to get sanctions relief 'traitors'

Kremlin spokesman Peskov speaks before a press conference in St Petersburg

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Thursday said that Russian businessmen who voiced anti-Russian views in an effort to get personal Western sanctions on them lifted were traitors ready to sell out their country.

The European Union has just removed three Russian business leaders from its sanctions list - which it introduced to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine - the EU's Official Journal showed on Thursday. Personal sanctions for many others were extended however.

When asked to comment on the development, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was unlikely that Europe itself could explain the logic of the decision-making process behind the sanctions.

Different Russian businessmen had adopted different methods when it came to trying to get themselves removed from the sanctions list, he said.

"There are businessmen who slip into anti-Russian positions and who try get sanctions taken off for 12 pieces of silver - they are traitors," said Peskov.

"There are (also) entrepreneurs who systematically and methodically defend their interests in court - this is the right of any entrepreneur and we treat this with respect," Peskov said.

Russia considered any seizure of private property or encroachment on individual business assets " international legislation", he added.

President Vladimir Putin this week described the co-founder of tech company Yandex Arkady Volozh as a "talented man" who has the right to express his opinion following an anti-war outburst he made last month.

Volozh, whose personal EU sanctions were this week extended, last month slammed what he called Russia's "barbaric" invasion of Ukraine - something Moscow calls "a special military operation" - days after criticism inside Russia over his apparent efforts to distance himself from the country.

"This is linked to a desire for these people to keep their business, to keep their assets, especially if people have moved and decided to live their lives in another country," Putin said on Tuesday.

Yandex is pursuing a corporate restructuring that should ultimately see its main revenue-generating businesses inside Russia spun off from its Dutch-registered parent company, Yandex NV.

Volozh could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Osborn)