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.
Anyone benefiting from Russia’s illegal action is not welcome here and neither are their expensive jets. I've detained several Russian aircraft, and Shvidler's multimillion-pound G-LATO isn't going anywhere. pic.twitter.com/v9RvjkjOMT— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) April 8, 2022