News & Opinion | March 19, 2022 5:47 pm

Russian Oligarchs’ Yachts Face Both Seizure and Sabotage

The pace isn't slowing down

Yacht
Yachts are currently on the move.
Geran de Klerk/Unsplash

What do you do when you own a massive boat but you can’t bring it in to a port for fear that it will be seized by governmental officials? That’s the dilemma facing a number of Russian oligarchs who have used some of their wealth to buy absurdly large boats. Earlier this month, Italian authorities seized a pair of yachts belonging to oligarchs, and others are likely to follow.

Following the efforts of law enforcement to track down these vessels has become a kind of spectator sport — the Twitter account @RussiaYachts, which traces their comings and goings, has over 28,000 followers as of this writing. Reporters are also on the case, and Talking Points Memo’s Cristina Cabrera has been monitoring several yachts owned by (and rumored to be owned by) numerous oligarchs.

The principle behind this has to do with having one’s assets frozen. A yacht, much like a soccer team, is considered an asset — and so they’re fair game for the nations pushing back against oligarchs with close ties to Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps the most impressive story of a seized yacht comes in Cabrera’s report, and pertains to The Lady Anastasia. It’s now in custody of the Spanish government, but before that, Taras Ostapchuk — the yacht’s Ukrainian chief mechanic — tried his best to sink the yacht himself. He was inspired to do so after being horrified by the sight of Russian attacks on Kyiv, and told a court, “I don’t regret anything I’ve done and I would do it again,” after being arrested.