July 4, 2022

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Private jet grounded in UK so Russian oligarchs ‘won’t live lives in peace’

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Another private jet linked to Russian oligarchs has been grounded at a UK airport, under efforts to sanction allies of Vladimir Putin.

A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) order has been issued to prevent the aircraft from taking off from London Luton Airport, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

“We won’t stand by and watch those who’ve made millions through Putin’s patronage live their lives in peace as innocent blood is shed,” said Grant Shapps, the transport secretary.

The aircraft will remain at Luton airport while officials investigate further whether it falls under legislation banning all aircraft connected with Russia, following its invasion of Ukraine.

The DfT – which has already detained one private helicopter belonging to HeliCo Group LLC and two private jets – said it would not be commenting on the aircraft’s ownership while it investigates.

The two jets belong to Eugene Shvidler, a sanctioned billionaire business associate of Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned as he sells Chelsea Football Club.

Ministers are stepping up their targeting of the UK assets of oligarchs, leading to the seizure of the first superyacht in British waters earlier this week.

Significantly, the £38m yacht, named Phi, is owned by a Russian businessman who is understood not to be sanctioned, but has “close connections” to Putin, Mr Shapps said.

The Foreign Office is exploring extending sanctions to the staff and crew who work on yachts or planes owned by Russian oligarchs, to make it harder for them to be maintained.

The move would also restrict the ability of oligarchs to find staff willing to sail or fly their assets out of the UK jurisdiction.

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Two superyachts linked to Mr Abramovich have docked in Turkey, beyond the reach of UK and EU sanctions – but, if it could be proven that UK firms were providing assistance, they could be targeted.

The Foreign Office has also said sanctions are being extended to cover illegal activity not just in Crimea but in the Russian-controlled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

However, ministers were embarrassed by an admission that at least eight Russian oligarchs on the UK sanctions list over their links to Putin were granted “golden visas” to live in Britain.

The individuals were granted the right to live in the UK after promising to invest at least £2m under the controversial tier 1 investor visa scheme.

The eight were not named and the Home Office refused to provide any further details.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said: “We will continue to ramp up the pressure so long as Russian troops are in Ukraine, targeting not only the businesses of oligarchs but also their assets and international lifestyles.”

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