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Unusual summer on the French Riviera as Russian superyachts flee

July 9, 2022 Updated Sat., July 9, 2022 at 9:02 p.m.

The luxury superyacht Amadea in the harbor of Port Hercules, Monaco, on Sept. 24, 2019.  (Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg)
The luxury superyacht Amadea in the harbor of Port Hercules, Monaco, on Sept. 24, 2019. (Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg)
By K. Oanh Ha Washington Post

The French Riviera is looking slightly different this summer: The Russian superyachts that can usually be spotted gliding across its sparkling blue waters are nowhere to be seen.

Facing sanctions for their ties to President Vladimir Putin and support for his invasion of Ukraine, Russian tycoons are squirreling away their multimillion-dollar yachts in places where they are less likely to be seized by the U.S. and other governments. Once in sanctuary, the vessels are staying put.

“It’s really rare to see megayachts staying in one port for months at a time, especially during the summer” when tycoons like to show off their yachts along the southern French coast, said Denis Suka, a social media influencer known as the Yacht Mogul who charters and helps sell vessels for clients.

A task force focused on Russian tycoons has blocked or frozen over $30 billion worth of sanctioned assets, including yachts and luxury real estate in a little over 100 days, according to the U.S. Treasury. The crackdown has left the superyacht owners with few destinations to pick from as they steer clear of some of the world’s most popular hangouts for the rich and famous.

“Many megayachts owned by Russians aren’t free to move anymore,” Suka said. “They have to be careful where they sail them or they’ll get seized.”

Here are some examples of Russian-owned superyachts that are laying low, according to analysis of vessel data compiled by Bloomberg:

• My Solaris and Eclipse. Roman Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea Football Club, has a fleet of yachts, including one of the world’s most expensive. The $600-million My Solaris, which has 48 cabins over eight decks, departed Barcelona just weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine and headed to Turkey’s Aegean coast, docking in Yalikavak on April 4 and not leaving since.

The Eclipse, another yacht linked to Abramovich, has been in waters near the town of Gocek in southwestern Turkey since the end of April. It first arrived in Turkey at the end of March from the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

It was a different story for both superyachts last summer, when My Solaris cruised from Barcelona to Cannes. Among the stops along the way, it anchored off Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a peninsula next to Nice known as an enclave for billionaires, with lush properties and private beaches. The Eclipse, meanwhile, frolicked around hotspots such as Saint-Tropez.

Turkey has become a popular hideout since the Ukraine invasion as it is one of the few nations not seizing Russian assets. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in late March that sanctioned Russian oligarchs were welcome as both tourists and investors, as long as their activities were legal.

The U.K. and European Union have sanctioned Abramovich, while A U.S. judge signed a warrant for the seizure of a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and Gulfstream G650ER that American authorities say the Russian owns or controls. He has hired a U.S. law firm to fight the warrant.

U.S. President Joe Biden has pushed for legislation that would allow the U.S. to seize yachts and other assets of sanctioned Russians, liquidate them and use those funds to benefit Ukraine. The EU is considering similar measures.

• Nirvana. The 290-foot Nirvana, linked to mining billionaire Vladimir Potanin, has been moored in Dubai since March 7. Last year, the $300-million superyacht cruised the Adriatic Sea along Croatia’s coast, stopping at Pula and Vodice, as well as the island Vis. It headed to Genoa in Italy last September.

The U.K. last week slapped sanctions on Potanin, Russia’s richest person and the president of MMC Norilsk Nickel. Potanin, who has a net worth of about $31.5 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said he is ready to discuss merging the mining giant with United Co Rusal International as sanctions weigh on both companies.

• Sea Rhapsody. The Sea Rhapsody, connected to U.S.-sanctioned Andrey Kostin, arrived in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean in early March and hasn’t left.

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