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Tracking Russian Billionaires’ Megayachts as Sanctions Force Them to Sea

Updated on May 6, 12:00 AM EDT

What You Need To Know

Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has triggered rounds of financial sanctions by the U.S. and its allies that are aimed to punish Russian oligarchs and business tycoons suspected of enabling President Vladimir Putin’s military aggression. The U.S., U.K. and European Union, along with Canada, Australia and others, have all levied sanctions on some of Russia’s wealthiest citizens.

Various governments have gone after moguls’ villas, planes and pleasure boats — seizing more than a dozen multimillion-dollar megayachts. That’s sent the luxury vessels racing across oceans to locales that aren’t seen as likely to impose or enforce sanctions.

The boats have scattered to a handful of destinations seen as hospitable, including parts of the Middle East and the Caribbean, according to space-based analytics and data firm Spire Global Inc.

Megayachts owned by Russians account for as much as 10% of the global fleet, according to industry watcher Superyacht Group.

By The Numbers

  • 10% Percentage of the global fleet of megayachts owned by Russians
  • $2.25 billion Minimum value of the more than a dozen megayachts seized so far
  • 400+ Number of individuals and entities sanctioned by the U.S. in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine

Why It Matters

As the war in Ukraine drags on, various governments are increasingly relying on sanctions to deter Putin. Seizures of the assets owned by those on sanctions lists is creating thorny problems. For one, megayachts can often sail out of the grasp of governments. And proving they belong to sanctioned individuals can be difficult. Oftentimes, the identities of the true owners are hard to sort with shell companies commonly used to mask identities.

    Anti-oligarchism only makes sense as part of a total war against the Putin regime, which is not the policy the West has chosen.