Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Russian oligarchs' superyachts have avoided the US west coast and the Mediterranean since Russia invaded Ukraine, heat maps show

Heat map showing Russian oligarch yacht traffic across the world before and after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Spire Maritime/Ali Balli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

From Business Insider by  Kate Duffy

Russian oligarchs' superyachts were detected in different regions after the Ukraine war began.
Heat maps show oligarchs' yachts have avoided America's west coast and the Mediterranean.
Turkey, Dubai, the Maldives, and the Seychelles, were popular destinations for the superyachts.

Some Russian oligarchs have kept their luxurious superyachts at bay from Western sanctions since President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine in February last year.

Heat maps from space-based data and analytics firm Spire, obtained by Insider, showed that oligarchs' superyachts were located in completely different destinations in January this year compared with before the war started in February 2022.

While some of the yachts trekked across the world to steer clear of sanctions against Russian oligarchs, others turned off their tracking signals to avoid detection. 
The Galactica Super Nova reportedly stopped sending tracking signals in March, though the reasons for this were unclear.
Per multiple reports, the vessel was owned by Vagit Alekperov, CEO of Russian oil firm Lukoil.

Below is a world map from Spire displaying the movements of Russian oligarchs' superyachts between February 2021 and February 2022, and then from February 2022 to January 2023.
The yellow spots represent the most heat, indicating there were a high number of yachts detected in the area.


Spire Maritime

The first map shows two popular paths for the yachts — one was straight down the west coast of America all the way to Chile, and another was across the Atlantic Ocean.
The luxury vessels were also common in Iceland, the Mediterranean Sea, and along the coastline of France, Portugal, and Norway, per the map.

One year on, the trends have distinctly changed.
The second map shows within a year, oligarchs' superyachts avoided most of America's west coast and floated close to the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, and The Caribbean.
Fewer vessels crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and the vast majority stayed away from the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean

Spire Maritime

Spire's data found that the Mediterranean was a hotspot for Russian oligarchs' superyachts before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Many vessels would linger around Spain, northern Italy, south of France, Croatia, Greece, and Sicily, according to the first heat map.

The second map shows that after Putin invaded Ukraine, there was very little activity from Russian oligarchs' yachts around the Mediterranean coast and some of the popular routes disappeared.

The only country in the region attracting the yachts was Turkey, per Spire's map.
Turkey still offers a safe haven for Russian oligarchs' assets because it's yet to sanction Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

Two superyachts owned by sanctioned billionaire Roman Abramovich both sailed to Turkey in March and have remained there ever since, according to Marine Traffic data.

"With the yachts steering clear of once favorite vacation spots like Sicily in favor of safe havens like Turkey – and sometimes avoiding detection altogether by turning off their tracking signals – it's clear that the Russian oligarchs who still have their ships know that the threat of seizure is real and have completely changed their travel plans to avoid capture," John Lusk, CEO of Spire Maritime, told Insider.

Northern Europe

Spire Maritime

Before the war, Russian oligarchs' yachts stuck around Iceland, the north coast of France and Germany, and parts of Norway and the UK, per Spire's first map.

From February 25, 2022, Spire said its data showed there was barely any activity from oligarchs' superyachts in Northern Europe.
Only one yacht was detected in the area since the war began, Spire said.

Arabian Sea

Spire Maritime

Spire's data also honed in on the movements of Russian oligarchs' yachts around the Arabian Sea.

The path down the Red Sea still proved a favored sailing route for the vessels after the Ukraine war started in February last year, according to the maps.

Fewer yachts were detected in Dubai, the Maldives, and the Seychelles, but the yellow heat spots on the second map indicate they were still popular destinations.

These sunny locations don't have an extradition treaty with the US and therefore attracted many Russian billionaires' yachts, including Clio, which is owned by Oleg Deripaska, according to SuperYacht Fan and other reports.
A spokesperson for Deripaska said he didn't own Clio.
Deripaska was sanctioned by the US in 2018, as well as by the EU and the UK last year — all three entities described him as an oligarch in their sanctions.
The spokesperson said Deripaska wasn't an oligarch because he became a billionaire before Putin came to power and wasn't involved in politics.

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