Jets and helicopters belonging to the owner of the British soccer team Chelsea F.C., Roman Abramovich, were on the move Monday in such far-flung locales as Moscow and Codrington, a town in Antigua and Barbuda.
And at around the same time, a jet owned by the steel magnate and fellow Russian oligarch Alexander Abramov touched down in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
The comings and goings of powerful Russian elites have come under intense scrutiny since Vladimir Putin's forces invaded Ukraine last week, an attack that has drawn international condemnation.
And that's why Jack Sweeney, 19, a University of Central Florida student, started tracking them on the Twitter feed Russian Oligarch Jets, which he launched over the weekend and which already had more than 52,000 followers Monday afternoon.
"People have been asking me about Putin for a while. They wanted to know if they could track him," said Sweeney, an information technology major.
While the isolated Russian president isn't much of a jet-setter, Sweeney realized that Putin's wealthy countrymen are — and their movements by air are easily accessible public information. So he did the next best thing to following Putin, which is to shadow the Russian elites.
The instant popularity of his bot, which automatically posts public data on movements of the aircraft, took Sweeney by surprise.
“It’s just been crazy,” he said. "I just figured some people would be interested in it. I just didn't think all kinds of people would be."
As of Monday afternoon, Sweeney was tracking 39 planes and helicopters belonging to 19 oligarchs.
U.S., allies ramp up sanctions as Russia wages war in UkraineMarch 1, 202202:16
Sweeney admitted that going into the weekend, he had little knowledge of the Russian power structure or even what it means to be an oligarch.
“Before this, I didn’t even know there were these [influential] oligarchs like this,” he said. “They probably do have a decent amount of power from what I can understand.”
The people who comprise Russia’s new money class have come under intense scrutiny following the invasion of Ukraine.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, oligarchs used personal connections to take over previously state-owned industry and profit from new Russian capitalism.
"These are the glitterati of Russia," said Howard Stoffer, a Russia expert who teaches international affairs at the University of New Haven.
U.S. and other world leaders who want to pressure Putin into withdrawing his armies from Ukraine have taken the economic fight to the rich Russian businessmen.
While Western forces have been ratcheting up sanctions against the Russian economy as a whole, they have also been taking the highly unusual step of attacking the pocketbooks of Putin and the oligarchs.
Stoffer said he welcomed any sunlight shined on powerful Russians, even if it all it illuminates is the travel habits of these affluent men.
"They should be exposed, and they should be paying whatever price a country can extract from them," he said Monday.
"Get these [airplane] tail numbers out. Tell the governments these are the people, this is where they're located and let them take whatever action they feel is appropriate."