Roman Abramovich’s superyacht Solaris was heading west across the Mediterranean after sanctions were extended to the Chelsea FC owner.
His $600m vessel, tracked off the coast of Sicily on Thursday, appeared to have joined the hurried sailings of Russian oligarchs moving their superyachts across the world to avoid the seizure by governments enforcing sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Solaris left the Barcelona port where it had been undergoing repairs on Tuesday, according to Reuters, and by Thursday afternoon it was rounding the southern coast of Sicily. Abramovich’s other yacht, the even more luxurious Eclipse – estimated to be worth more than $1bn after extensive renovations – set sail east from the Caribbean island of St Maarten towards international waters shortly after other oligarchs’ yachts were seized.
Abramovich was sanctioned by the US in 2018 but joined the UK list on Thursday morning. A spokesperson for Abramovich said earlier this week: “We never comment on the movements of the yacht or any other vehicles or vessels.”
The 163-metre Eclipse, which includes nine decks, two helipads and a 16-metre swimming pool that can be converted into a dancefloor, is the most expensive vessel owned by individuals on the growing US, EU and UK sanction lists.
Many super-rich Russians – including some not yet on the sanctions list, but with links to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin – appear to be attempting to move their superyachts to countries without formal extradition agreements with western governments.
French and Italian authorities last week seized three yachts worth more than $225m (£170m).
Tracking data from the shipping intelligence service MarineTraffic shows that Titan, a $100m superyacht owned by Alexander Abramov, a billionaire iron and steel magnate, arrived in Maldives waters last week after sailing from Fethiye in Turkey. Its owner, who a big stake alongside Abramovich in the London-listed coal and steel group Evraz, is not holding any sanctions lists.
Clio, a $65m superyacht owned by the aluminum billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has been subject to US sanctions since 2018, was reported last week heading for Raa Atoll in the Maldives. The Maldives is an Indian Ocean island nation with no extradition treaty with the US or the EU.
The US president, Joe Biden, said last week the US is actively working to seize the superyachts, luxury apartments and private jets of oligarchs linked to Putin. “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he said in his State of Union address.
The White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki, added: “We want (Putin) to feel the squeeze, we want the people around him to feel the squeeze,” she said.
Grant Shapps, the UK transport secretary, said the government would detain any yachts suspected of being Russian-owned if they entered UK waters. “I want to make it impossible for individuals with links to Putin to use their aircraft in UK airspace, at UK airports or airfields, and any aircraft suspected of being linked to Russia will be detained,” he said. Likewise, their yachts. Any of these floating gin palaces with an identifiable Russian connection will be stopped if it attempts to dock in a British port.”
France arrested Love Vero, a 280ft, $120m superyacht they said was owned by Igor Sechin, in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat. Sechin is the sanctioned chief executive of the Russian oil producer Rosneft and a close ally of Putin. Amore Vero, which means “true love” in Italian, can accommodate 14 guests and 28 crew.
French police, who boarded the vessel at night last week, said the ship was in port for repairs, but its crew were “making arrangements to leave in a hurry, without having completed the planned work”.
Italy’s Guardia di Finanza boarded and impounded Firewood, a 41-metre, $45m yacht owned by Gennady Timchenko, a close friend of Putin who has an estimated $21bn fortune held in several large Russian raw materials companies, in Sanremo. Lady M, a 64-metre, $60m yacht owned by Alexei Mordashov, was seized in the nearby Ligurian port of Imperia.
dilbar, the world’s largest superyacht by gross tonnage, which the US government said is owned by Alisher Usmanov, was reported to have been seized in Hamburg. However, German authorities later clarified that the 156-meter vessel, which has been valued at $600m, has not been imposed but requires an export waiver to leave the port.
Usmanov, who reportedly owns Witanhurst, the second biggest private home in the UK after Buckingham Palace, was added to the EU’s sanction list on Wednesday. He was sanctioned by the US last week after the White House described him as a “one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and a close ally of Putin”.
The yachts identified by the Guardian as linked to oligarchs are worth more than $3bn. The ultimate ownership of superyachts can be difficult to confirm as many are owned through shell companies registered in tax havens.
Additional reporting by Pamela Duncan and Joanna Partridge
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism