'I don't regret anything'
The U.S. and Europe effectively cut off Russia's economy Monday as a way to push Russian President Vladimir into abandoning his increasingly bloody invasion of Ukraine. Even Switzerland, a favorite home for the money of ultra-wealth Russians, said Monday it will comply with the EU sanctions and asset freezes of certain oligarchs close to Putin. The measures are hitting everyone in Russia, but they are aimed at Putin's inner circle.
The White House on Saturday announced a new transatlantic task force "to identify, hunt down, and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs — their yachts, their mansions, and any other ill-gotten gains."
Russian oligarchs own some of the world's most expensive yachts and private jets, and they apparently want to keep them. "Some of Russia's wealthiest are moving their boats to other locations, potentially with the hope they can avoid having those items seized," CNBC reported Monday. One Ukrainian mechanic on a Russian super-yacht docked in Mallorca, Spain, took matters into his own hands on Saturday, Spain's Ultima Hora reported.
The mechanic, Taras Ostapchuk, saw a video of Russian missiles striking an apartment complex in Kyiv and decided to sink the $7 million yacht, the Lady Anastasia, he said is owned by a Russian arms tycoon, his boss. "I told myself: 'What do I need a job for if I don't have a country?'" he told Ultima Hora. He opened two valves in the yacht to let in water, then told fellow crew members so they wouldn't drown, Ostapchuk told a judge after police arrested him, The Washington Post reports.
"I don't regret anything I've done, and I would do it again," Ostapchuk, 55, told the court, according to Ultima Hora. His lawyer, Neus Canyelles Nicolau, confirmed the details to the Post on Monday and said that her client had been released. Ostapchuk told reporters he is heading back to Kyiv to fight the Russian invaders.
Meanwhile, faint cracks are appearing between Putin and "members of the oligarch class who made billions of dollars while showing fealty to the autocratic leader but now see their fortunes threatened by Western sanctions," the Post reports. "Sanctions experts and former U.S. officials said that while the signs of dissent remain tepid, they represent a more palpable fraying of relations between Putin and the ranks of elite loyalists than has been observed in years."