Russia’s richest businessmen are increasingly frantic that President Vladimir Putin’s policies in Ukraine will lead to crippling sanctions and are too scared of reprisal to say so publicly, billionaires and analysts said.

If Putin doesn’t move to end the war in Ukraine in the wake of last week’s downing of a Malaysia Air jet in rebel-held territory, he risks becoming an international outcast like Belarus’s Aleksandr Lukashenko, whom the U.S. famously labeled Europe’s last dictator, one Russian billionaire said on condition of anonymity. What’s happening is bad for business and bad for Russia, he said.

“The economic and business elite is just in horror,” said Igor Bunin, who heads the Center for Political Technology in Moscow. Nobody will speak out because of the implicit threat of retribution, Bunin said by phone yesterday. “Any sign of rebellion and they’ll be brought to their knees.”

The downing of the Malaysian airliner, which killed 298 people, led to renewed threats of deeper penalties by the U.S. and the European Union, who’ve already sanctioned Russian individuals and companies deemed complicit in fueling the pro- Russian insurgency in Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday the available evidence suggests Russia provided the missile used by the rebels to down the airliner. U.K. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was cited by The Mail on Sunday as accusing Putin of “sponsored terrorism.”

State Terrorism

Branding Russia, like Iran or Libya under Muammar Qaddafi, a “state-sponsor of terrorism,” as the British defense minister suggested, would be a major move that would have “a very significant impact on Russia and companies dealing with Russia,” Timothy Ash, an emerging-market economist at Standard Bank Plc in London, said by e-mail.

Russia isn’t concerned about the possibility of being labeled as a sponsor of terrorism, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said by text message yesterday.

The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people and was blamed on Libya, was among other attacks that led to international sanctions in the 1980s and 1990s, cementing Libya’s status as an outcast until the end of the century.

Putin’s Circle

While the EU has so far imposed less punitive measures against Russia than the U.S. because of opposition from countries such as Italy and Austria, the U.K. and the Netherlands are leading the push for bolder action at a meeting of foreign ministers tomorrow. Most of the victims aboard the plane, 193, were Dutch; 10 were British.

The U.S. has already imposed penalties on state-run companies and members of Putin’s inner circle, including billionaires Gennady Timchenko and Arkady Rotenberg. The latest sanctions, announced a day before the Malaysia Air attack, barred OAO Novatek, a gas producer partly owned by Timchenko, from using U.S. debt markets for new financing with maturities longer than 90 days. Novatek’s London shares fell 8 percent over two days, cutting its market value by almost $3 billion.

Amid market turmoil provoked by the Ukraine conflict, the 19 richest Russians lost $14.5 billion since the start of the year, compared to an increase in wealth of $56.5 billion for the richest 64 Americans, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.