French authorities have confiscated two luxury yachts belonging to one of Russia’s most influential businessmen, the latest move by Western governments to seize the assets of associates of President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
The “Little Bear,” a 17-metre vessel worth €20 million belonging to Alexey Kuzmichev, a main shareholder of the Alfa conglomerate, was seized in the Mediterranean resort of Cannes on March 16, a government source told AFP on Wednesday.
His “Big Bear,” a 26-metre boat that was being serviced in nearby Antibes, reportedly worth €70 million, was seized on Monday.
Kuzmichev, 59, “has well established ties to the Russian president,” the European Union said in a March 15 statement announcing sanctions against Russians suspected of being close to Putin.
As a billionaire who is one of Russia’s biggest taxpayers, he is accused of providing “a substantial source of revenue to the government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine,” the statement said.
The French Riviera has long been a favourite retreat for the Russian elite, many of whom got rich by swearing allegiance to Putin as he has consolidated his control of Russia since first becoming elected president in 2000.
Early this month, French authorities seized the “Amore Vero” superyacht belonging to Russia’s oil magnate Igor Sechin, an 86-metre vessel reportedly worth some $120 million.
Spain, Italy and Britain have also seized Russian yachts as part of EU efforts to pressure Putin to call off his invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Gibraltar officials said they had impounded a superyacht belonging to Russian oligarch Dmitry Pumpyansky following a complaint from a creditor bank.
Pumpyansky, the boss of TMK, Russia’s biggest manufacturer of steel pipes, was added to the list of Russian tycoons targeted by EU and UK sanctions this month following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.