France Seizes Yacht Linked to Vladimir Putin’s Best Buddy Igor Sechin


Since Russian president Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, everyone from the U.S. to the U.K. to the famously neutral Switzerland have hit Russia with crippling, unprecedented economic sanctions. Key Russian banks have been kicked off of SWIFT, the network that connects financial institutions around the globe. The U.S. Treasury Department, as well as its European allies, have prohibited anyone from doing business with Russia’s Central Bank, finance ministry, and wealth fund. Russian flights have been banned from entering American, European, and Canadian airspaces. And in a move that has no doubt kept extremely wealthy Russians up at night, weeping into their blinis and frantically moving whatever they can offshore, Putin’s rich friends have been personally sanctioned, meaning they can say “do svidanie” to their very fancy toys and large stacks of cash.

On Thursday, France seized a yacht linked to Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russian oil giant Rosneft, one of the world’s largest crude oil producers. The yacht, named Amore Vero, was impounded in the French Mediterranean port of La Ciotat, where it was scheduled to depart on April 1, according to French24. On Twitter, Olivier Dussopt, the French minister of public action and accounts, posted a photo of the 280-foot vessel—which is reportedly outfitted with a “swimming pool that turns into a helipad.” He wrote: “As part of the implementation of European Union sanctions against Russia and in support of Ukraine, we seized a first yacht.” Earlier this week, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters: “If I were an oligarch, in Russia or France, I’d be worried.” And apparently, he wasn’t kidding!

What exactly does Sechin have to do with Putin, you might be wondering? Here’s how the European Union described him last month:

Sechin is…one of Vladimir Putin’s most trusted and closest advisors, as well as his personal friend. He has been in contact with the Russian President on a daily basis. He is considered to be one of the most powerful members of the Russian political elite. His connections to Vladimir Putin are long and deep. He worked with the President in the St Petersburg mayor’s office in the 1990s and has proved his loyalty ever since. In 1999 Mr. Sechin became Vladimir Putin’s deputy head of his administration, in 2008 deputy Prime Minister, and in 2012 Rosneft’s CEO. He is one of the Russian oligarchs operating in partnership with the Russian state.

According to the E.U., Sechin is “among those people from Putin’s circle who receive financial gains and important assignments in return for subordination and loyalty.” Among other tasks assigned to him by Putin, Sechin was apparently “involved in financing the vineyards of the palace complex near Gelendzhik, which is considered to be personally used by” the Russian president. Sechin, the E.U. account also reads, “actively supported…and benefited from Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine. Furthermore, Rosneft Aero, a subsidiary of Rosneft of which Mr. Sechin is CEO, delivers jet fuel to the Simferopol Airport which provides air flight connection between the territory of the illegally annexed Crimea and Sevastopol and Russia…he is supporting the consolidation of the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula into the Russian Federation, which in turn further undermines the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.” Sechin has been called “Darth Vader” and the “scariest person on earth.” So you can probably understand why other countries want to crack down on the guy, as (1) he appears to be a clear and present threat to Ukraine and (2) he’s conceivably in a position to call up his buddy Vlad and complain (though, according to reports, the Russian president “doesn‘t really care” about sanctions, whether they’re on the state or his pals.)

In other yacht-seizure news, German authorities have reportedly confiscated a boat belonging Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. At 512 feet and 15,917 tons, Dilbar is the largest motor yacht in the world, according to Forbes. After his assets were frozen by the European Union this week, Usmanov complained he was the victim of character assassination, saying in a statement: “I believe such a decision is unfair, and the reasons employed to justify the sanctions are a set of false and defamatory allegations damaging my honor, dignity, and business reputation.”

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