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Russian-Owned Private Jets and Helicopters Continue to Fly, Despite Sanctions

This won’t go down easy with those thinking economic sanctions against Russian oligarchs can’t really significantly impact the course of the ongoing war in Ukraine. New research shows that Russian-owned aircraft, both private jets and helicopters, continued to fly free and are still doing so despite sanctions.
The Gulfstream G550 private jet arrested in London in April, now flying free across EU airspace 13 photos
Gulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 millionGulfstream 550 previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein, listed for $16.9 million
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Just three days later, Germany announced that it was closing its airspace to Russian aircraft, both commercial and private. In the weeks since, many countries joined international sanctions lists, which have been expanded to include everything from aircraft to superyachts, real estate, liquidities, and offshore companies.

In total, billions of dollars worth of assets have been frozen, impounded, or temporarily arrested. But that’s not to say that sanctions stopped oligarchs from doing what oligarchs do, Welt Am Sonntag reports. Looking at publicly-available flight data, the German publication reports that over 30 private aircraft have flown across European airspace since sanctions went into effect. The number includes aircraft whose ownership has been proven and those that are only “associated” with Russian billionaires and which are still under investigation by authorities.

Surprising absolutely no one, data shows that privately-owned aircraft continued to take off from European cities and even to fly repeatedly across European airspace days after the invasion. Many of these private jets or helicopters did a one-time flight on their way to friendly countries, where they sought refuge.

Others are still in operation, like the Gulfstream G550 private jet that was arrested in London on April 1, released weeks later, and landed in Rotterdam earlier this week. The jet was once chartered by Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar and is believed to belong to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close Putin associate and suspected financier of the Wagner militia.

“The airspace of the EU should actually be closed to Russian planes,” the publication writes. “But rich Russians are circumventing the flight ban [as] questionable ownership structures often prevent authorities from gaining access.”

The problem is the same as with Russian-owned superyachts: proving ownership is a tricky, complicated, and oftentimes-futile business. Many of these super-fancy and super-expensive toys, whether floating or flying, are registered to offshore companies that bear no visible connection to the direct beneficiary, as the actual owner is called. Determining said connection is what’s keeping authorities from effectively enforcing sanctions.



Editor's note: Photos in the gallery show the 2008 Gulfstream G550 private jet previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein.

 
 
 
 
 

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