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UKRAINE

Yachts, houses and bank accounts: France draws up list of Russian oligarchs’ property for seizure

France is drawing up a list of property owned by Russian oligarchs including luxury cars and yachts that can be seized under EU sanctions imposed following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Yachts, houses and bank accounts: France draws up list of Russian oligarchs' property for seizure
The French Riviera has long been a favoured playground for Russian oligarchs. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

The French Riviera has long been a playground for ultra-wealthy Russians, with many spending their summers on yachts or in their luxury villas on the Mediterranean coast.

“At the request of the president, we are continuing a full survey of the financial assets, real estate, yachts and luxury vehicles (in France) which belong to Russian personalities targeted by European sanctions,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday.

He added that France was also working on identifying the property of other Russians who might hit by further rounds of sanctions “because of their proximity with the Russian government.”

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking beside Le Maire after a Monday morning meeting of France’s Defence Council, said measures would be taken “in a very short space of time” against “Russian propaganda organs” which were responsible for “disinformation” in Europe.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen announced on Sunday that the European Union would ban Russian state media Russia Today – known as RT – and Sputnik. RT has a substantial operation in France, employing more than 100 people. 

French President Emmanuel Macron spearheaded diplomatic efforts to prevent a war in Ukraine and held more than six hours of talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 7th.

After Putin informed him of his decision to officially recognise two Russian-backed separatist provinces in eastern Ukraine last week, a prelude to his invasion, Macron warned him of the reaction, the Journal du Dimanche newspaper reported on Sunday.

“You know there will be very severe consequences,” the French president reportedly said. “You shouldn’t underestimate them.”

READ ALSO Visas, flight bans and property seizure: How the EU’s sanctions will affect France

Member comments

  1. When a country starts seizing property because it might have been bought with so-called “dirty money” or they take issue with the person that bought it, that country has taken a very slippery path.

  2. Sanctions like this is a form of economic warfare I hope the EU knows what is doing by taking such aggressive actions, Putin’s Russia is a tough Nation and actions like these might only escalate tensions. Diplomacy the ultimate way of resolving this crisis.

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POLITICS

EXPLAINED: Does France really have a hijab ban?

As Iranian women burn their hijabs in protest at the country's repressive laws you might have heard people contrasting this to the French 'hijab ban' - but is the Muslim headscarf actually banned in France?

EXPLAINED: Does France really have a hijab ban?

What are the rules? Does France have a hijab ban?

No, France does not have a ban on hijabs in public spaces. However, the rules differ when it comes to headscarves and full-face coverings and this can be confusing because both the full-face veil and the Muslim headscarf are often referred to a voile in French.

In 2010, the country brought in a complete ban on clothing that includes full-face coverings – including the burka and niqab. These cannot be worn in any public space in France, at risk of a €150 fine.

The hijab or headscarf, however, is completely legal in public spaces including shops, cafés and the streets and it’s common to see women wearing them, especially in certain areas of the big cities like Paris.

However, that doesn’t mean there is no restriction on women’s freedom to wear the Muslim headscarf.

In line with France’s laws on laïcité (secularism) it is forbidden to wear overt symbols of religion – including the Muslim headscarf – in government buildings, including schools and universities (with the exception of visitors).

Public officials such as teachers, firefighters or police officers are also barred from wearing any overt symbol of their religion while they are at work.

In 2004, President Jacques Chirac’s government banned all religious signs from state schools. While the law also banned crucifixes and kippas, “it was mostly aimed at girls wearing Muslim headscarves,” explained The Local’s columnist, John Lichfield.

Burkinis are also subject to certain rules. They are not allowed in public swimming pools in France where there are strict regulations regarding dress (Speedos only for men and compulsory swimming caps), but they are allowed on beaches and in other public spaces.

READ MORE: Burkini: Why is the French interior minister getting involved in women’s swimwear?

This became a source of controversy during the summer of 2022, when Grenoble challenged the ban on the full-body swimsuit by relaxing its rules on the swimwear permitted in public pools.

In response to the challenge, France’s highest administrative court voted to uphold the countrywide ban in June. 

What about in athletics?

Some federations, such as the French Football Federation, have banned players from wearing the hijab, along with other “ostentatious” religious symbols such as the Jewish kippa.

A women’s collective known as “les Hijabeuses” launched a legal challenge to the rules in November last year.

Other sports, such as handball and rugby, have a more open position.

Are there plans to change these rules? 

Currently, there are no government plans to reverse the ban on full-face coverings including the burka and niqab or to allow the symbols of religion in public buildings, like schools.

There have been attempts to change the current legal framework on the headscarf, however.

In 2021, Senators proposed an to the government’s “anti-separatism bill” that would ban girls under 18 wearing a hijab in public. Several other amendments also targeted Muslim women – such as banning mums from wearing the hijab when accompanying school trips – however these were all defeated in the Assemblée nationale and therefore did not become law.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What does laïcité (secularism) really mean in France?

Are the rules followed?

The rules around the niqab are generally followed and it has become quite rare in France.

However sociologist Agnès De Féo, believes that in the years following its ban, the full-face covering became more popular, rather than less.

She wrote that “the law had an incentive effect: it incited women to transgress the ban by embracing the prohibited object. Prohibition made the niqab more desirable and created a craze among some young women to defy the law.”

As of 2020, however, fewer women wore the niqab and burka in France than they did in 2009.

The rules around the wearing the headscarf in public buildings are generally respected, but it’s not uncommon for rules around any form of Muslim dress to be over-zealously interpreted – sometimes by accident, sometimes with a cynical political intent.

One key example was in 2019, when Julien Odoul, a member of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party, caused widespread outrage after posting a video of himself confronting a headscarf-wearing woman who accompanied students on a field trip.

He cited “secular principles” – arguing that the headscarf’s ban in schools should also extend into school trips.

In response, the country’s Education Minister at the time, Jean-Michel Blanquer, clarified that that “the law does not prohibit women wearing headscarves to accompany children.”

There was also controversy at election time over candidates who appeared on posters wearing the hijab, although again this is perfectly legal and doe snot contravene secular principles. 

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