Yachts, huge real estate, planes, works of art … Western sanctions imposed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine are depriving rich Russians of their “luxury games”. With efficacy difficult to assess.
High-profile asset freezes have hit Russia’s oligarchs head-on, many of whom have their fortunes lying on the ruins of the Soviet Union and reeling during the two decades of Vladimir Putin’s rule. In the UK, more than 100 businessmen, women and their families have been sanctioned since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. The US targeted 140, and the European Union targeted more than 30.
Change course in London
According to British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, it is about hitting the sore places by depriving the oligarchs accused of putting their fortunes at the service of power while enjoying the Western lifestyle, “of their luxury games”.
In London, sometimes nicknamed ‘Londongrad’ for hosting many Russians for years, ‘the welcome mat is now being removed’, sums up the weekly The Economist. Even Roman Abramovich was targeted which led to the sale of Chelsea Football Club of London, which he bought in 2003.
Penalties ad vitam aeternam?
But targeting such large numbers of people in a highly globalized economy remains “totally uncharted territory,” notes researcher Alex Ness of the Institute for Government Research Institute. This will create a “deep rift between the West and Russia” even after the war.
Independent Russian political analyst Konstantin Kalachev believes that Vladimir Putin’s “special operation” in Ukraine could last “for years”. If the decision to lift sanctions was based on the situation in Ukraine, the West would “never lift them.”
An “absolute disaster” for Russian billionaires
the magazine Forbes And already 34 Russians were crossed off the billionaire list last month, citing the impact of the sanctions. “The war is an absolute disaster for them,” said Elizabeth Schimpfussel, a sociologist at Astum University in Birmingham and author of Rich Russians.
Peter Avene, known for his large collection of Russian artwork, told financial times He was not sure “that he had the right to have someone do the housework or drive his car”. He now fears deportation from the UK. Many oligarchs have several nationalities and are in no hurry to return to Russia. Elisabeth Schimpfusel says Western countries are “a base they can go to once they are afraid of being prosecuted in Russia”.
Confiscation of billions of euros
The range of sanctioned property is enormous. According to the British government, Roman Abramovich alone weighs more than 9 billion pounds (10.5 billion euros). EU member states have reported freezing nearly $30 billion in Russian assets, including seven billion in yachts, helicopters, real estate or works of art.
The United States has imposed sanctions on or blocked Kremlin relatives’ boats and planes worth more than $1 billion. Last week, at Washington’s request, police in Fiji seized a 106-meter yacht worth more than $300 million linked to Suleiman Karimov, a billionaire and lawmaker targeted by European and US sanctions.
It is difficult to publicly oppose Putin
According to Konstantin Kalachev, “the use of economic sanctions to try to force a change in foreign policy has not proven effective,” even if the sanctions “would weaken Russia’s ability to fight.” While Roman Abramovich participated in talks to end the conflict, a few others publicly criticized the war.
On Instagram, Oleg Tinkoff, the banker who was sanctioned in London where he recently treated leukemia, slammed “this crazy war”. But experts say the oligarchs are unlikely to ally against Putin. “It would not be in their best interest to speak out against Putin,” Elizabeth Schimpfussel said.