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Putin's superyachts targeted in latest round of U.S. sanctions

The new sanctions from the Treasury Department also identified yachts and luxury aircraft belonging to Kremlin-linked oligarchs.
The Shellest, center, a yacht the U.S. Treasury Department says is linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin
The Shellest, center, a yacht the Treasury Department says is linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, docked in Sochi, Russia, in 2018. Olga Volodina / Alamy

The White House announced a new round of sanctions Thursday against Russia over its assault on Ukraine, which include targeting four yachts linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Treasury Department said Putin has taken numerous trips on two of the yachts, the Russia-flagged Graceful and the Cayman Islands-flagged Olympia, "including a 2021 trip in the Black Sea where he was joined by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the OFAC-designated corrupt ruler of Belarus, who has supported Russia’s war against Ukraine." (OFAC is the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.) 

The Treasury Department also identified two other yachts it said are linked to Putin — the Shellest and the Nega. "Shellest periodically travels to the coast where President Putin’s infamous Black Sea Palace is located, and President Putin uses Nega for travel in Russia’s North," the agency said in a news release.

The U.S. first sanctioned Putin in February. Some experts have estimated that his net worth is in the tens of billions; he has buried his wealth behind numerous shell companies, making it difficult to locate and freeze his assets. The Treasury Department said Thursday that the Olympia and the Graceful are owned by a company owned by the Russian government, while the Shellest and the Nega are owned by a Russian company.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the new sanctions were designed "to degrade the networks allowing Russia’s elites, including President Putin, to anonymously make use of luxury assets around the globe."

As part of the effort, the U.S. sanctioned Imperial Yachts SARL, a yacht brokerage it said is aligned with the Kremlin and provides "yacht-related services to Russia’s elites, including those in President Putin’s inner circle."

"When not in use by their owners, superyachts can be offered for charter through businesses such as Imperial Yachts, generating income for the owners, who are in some cases Russia’s oligarchs," the Treasury Department said.

Vladimir Putin's yacht 'Graceful'
The Treasury Department says Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken numerous trips on the Graceful, pictured in Sochi, Russia, in 2015. Marcus Brandt / picture alliance via Getty Images

In a statement Thursday, Imperial Yachts called the accusations "false" and said it "will pursue all available legal remedies to resolve this matter promptly."

"We are not involved in our clients’ financial affairs,” the company said.

The Treasury Department took aim at Putin allies, as well, including business leaders and government officials. Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin, whom the Treasury Department identified as a close friend of Putin's who helps manage his offshore wealth, was sanctioned, as was Yury Slyusar, the president of a state-owned company that is a major aircraft supplier for the Russian military.

The sanctions also targeted yachts and luxury aircraft belonging to other oligarchs, including a yacht called the Sea Rhapsody and a jet that have been linked to Andrei Kostin, the previously sanctioned head of Russia's VTB Bank.

Andrei Vladimirovich Skoch, a billionaire member of the Russian Duma who was also previously sanctioned, has been linked to a Cayman Islands-flagged yacht called the Madame Gu, a helicopter housed on the yacht and a private plane. The Treasury Department said that the 324-foot Madame Gu is valued at $156 million and that it "includes an elevator, beach club, gym, and requires significant maintenance and repair, including approximately $1 million for painting annually."