August 29, 2023

Of War and Yachts


Of War and Yachts
Graceful in the port of Sochi, 2015 Alexxx1979, Wikimedia Commons

A year and a half into the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian government allocated roughly $32 million for the care and refurbishment of the yacht Graceful, linked to President Vladimir Putin. So argue findings by associates of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The investigative team said that a considerable portion, specifically R240 million (about $2.5 million), was spent solely on wooden products for the yacht. There waa also the acquisition of an R8 million ($84,000) coffee table, a carpet spanning over 100 square meters for the bedroom of the "owner" (procured for R5 million [$52,000]), and other furniture.

"Right now, during the war, three billion rubles were spent on Putin’s toy," said an investigator in the video outlining the report. This sum includes funds for restoration, maintenance, crew salaries, overhead costs, communications, dry dock storage costs, and fuel. The investigators predict that siginificant expenditures will be ongoing. Currently, the yacht is en route to the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

The 82-meter Graceful was built by the German shipbuilding company Blohm and Voss. The officially registered owner, as reported by the BBC, is the Argument company, co-founded by Alexander Kolpakov, head of the presidential affairs department, and Oleg Kuznetsov, head of Military Unit 1473 of the FSO (the Russian agency concerned with tasks related to the protection of several high-ranking state officials).

Notably, the vessel’s itinerary has often coincided with the Russian president’s schedule. It frequently makes appearances around Sochi, home to Putin’s Bocharov Ruchey residence and a rumored palace on Idokopas. Further, photographs of the yacht show a government telephone, identical to those present in all of Putin’s official offices, and the yacht gym is furnished with the same equipment found in Putin’s armored train.

Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Graceful was subjected to sanctions, mirroring the predicament of the 140-meter yacht Scheherazade, also associated with Vladimir Putin. The latter was apprehended in Italy in May 2022, while Graceful successfully navigated to Kaliningrad only weeks before February 24, 2022.

Associates of Alexei Navalny noted that the sanctions failed to impede the substantial yacht overhaul. In particular, an intricate infrastructure was established, involving assistants from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, to facilitate equipment procurement and refurbishment. Notably, the Estonian company Breeze Marine is referenced, among others, in the investigation. Crew uniforms were sourced from Italy, with expenses covered by a Dubai-based company, and the merchandise was routed through Lithuania before reaching Kaliningrad.

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