She’s also startled by Mr. Akhmedov’s campaign to keep her from pocketing one cent of his $1.4 billion fortune, most of which he earned selling his stake in a Siberian energy company called Northgas. Contrary to popular assumptions, she said, she needs the money. She is living off a lump sum provided to her by Burford Capital, a litigation finance firm, which is helping to fund the legal efforts and will take a percentage of any results.
“I don’t want to play the victim, because it’s not my nature,” she said. “But I have to defend myself.”
Ms. Akhmedova said she had always wanted to settle out of court, quietly and for far less than she was awarded. She still speaks fondly of the years she spent with her ex-husband, whom she says she met in Moscow in 1989, when she was 17. He was nearly twice her age.
“He was wearing a suit,” she said. “He struck me as a very proper gentleman.”
The two married in 1993 and moved to London. He started off in the fur business, selling sable skins on the London Commodity Exchange. He later pivoted to the natural gas sector and, in 2012, sold his 49 percent stake in Northgas for a reported $1.4 billion.
Over the years, he acquired a summer house in the south of France, two helicopters, vintage cars, fine art — by Rothko, Warhol and others — and a $26 million home in an upscale county outside London.
“We went from flying Aeroflot to British Airways to chartered flights,” said Ms. Akhmedova. Later, they flew on their own $50 million private jet.
During the years that Mr. Akhmedov amassed his wealth, the couple regularly toggled between hostilities and opulent cease-fires. She said she filed for divorce a second time in 2013 — she had rescinded the first petition a decade earlier — when one of her ex-husband’s paramours gave birth to a child.