Among the Russian oligarchs who may be slapped in another round of sanctions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a billionaire who owns the world’s largest yacht — named for his mother.
Alisher Usmanov, 68, is part of a group of billionaires with assets in the West and close ties to Putin who could face economic penalties as the Biden administration, the UK and the EU crackdown on the Kremlin’s inner circle, following Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine earlier this week.
President Biden on Tuesday targeted two Russian banks and three oligarchs with alleged links to the Kremlin — and promised to crack down on other members of Putin’s inner circle who profited from their connections to him. Biden has not yet named Usmanov or any individuals other than those announced on Tuesday.
Many in Putin’s circle live lavish lifestyles outside Russia, spending millions on luxury homes, yachts and celebrity-studded parties. It’s a situation that also makes them vulnerable to economic pressure as their assets are increasingly tied up in the West.
Those sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury will lose access to the US financial system as well as any of their assets that are under American jurisdiction, although experts say that applying economic pressure against oligarchs will do little to sway Putin.
“I think sanctioning oligarchs is a fine thing to do, but it’s not like they are about to get on the phone and influence Putin,” said Chris Miller, an assistant professor of international history at Tufts University and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. “In terms of sanctions, the important thing is to target the entire economy, banks and the energy sector.”
For Usmanov, whose net worth tops $16 billion, that includes his 512-foot superyacht “Ona” (formerly called “Dilbar,” the name of his late mother) which includes a large garden, two helipads and an 82-foot swimming pool. Last year, a group of 24 Members of Parliament from several different parties urged the country’s foreign secretary to take action against a soccer club affiliated with Usmanov, who has close ties to Putin and has allegedly functioned as his private business adviser.
The letter, which also demanded action against a club owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, came after jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny included them on his list of 35 oligarchs who are allegedly among “key enablers and beneficiaries of Russian kleptocracy, with significant ties/assets in the West.” Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation urged the European Union to sanction all of those on his list last year.
Opposition Labour Party member Margaret Hodge, said in Parliament earlier this week that Abramovich and Usmanov should be subject to sanctions, describing them as “kleptocrats who have stolen from the Russian people.”
Abramovich denied Navalny’s claims, and both men have previously insisted their businesses are legitimate.
Usmanov, who has financial interests in Everton F.C., a Premier League soccer club in the United Kingdom, also has vast holdings in London, where he owns two sprawling mansions with a combined price tag of $300 million. He also owns properties in Sardinia, Munich and Monaco, according to reports.
Usmanov reportedly has family ties to Putin. He is married to Irina Viner, a rhythmic gymnastics coach who helped Alina Kabaeva — widely believed to be Putin’s mistress — win gold at the 2004 Olympics.
Meanwhile, Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who was put on US sanctions list in 2018, has a sizable footprint in New York City, with property in Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side.
Last year, the FBI swarmed a 23,000-square foot Washington, DC, mansion and a $4.5 million Greenwich Village townhouse on Gay Street allegedly owned by Deripaska’s relatives. The reason for their presence wasn’t clear, according to a report from NBC News. A spokesman told the network that the agency was conducting “law enforcement activity at the home” but offered no details.
A business controlled by Deripaska, 54, also bought a townhouse on East 64th Street in 2008 for $42.5 million, according to public records. The five-story mansion, located between Madison and Fifth Avenues, was frozen by the US Department of the Treasury as part of Deripaska’s assets in the US in 2018.
Deripaska, who made his $4.1 billion fortune in aluminum, construction and agriculture in Russia, was also investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for his alleged ties to Donald Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort. He has denied any wrongdoing.
But his assets were frozen primarily because of his alleged ties to Putin and organized crime in Russia. He sued the Department of the Treasury over the sanctions, but a judge threw out his lawsuit. Deripaska has appealed the ruling.
He was formerly wed to Polina Yumasheva, the daughter of top Boris Yeltsin adviser Valentin Yumashev.
And then there is Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea Football Club in England, is worth $13.8 billion, according to Forbes. The 55-year-old is known for throwing a star-studded New Year’s Eve party aboard his $500-million mega yacht in St. Bart’s.
Abramovich was married to art collector Dasha Zhukova and transferred to her more than $90 million in New York real estate — including three Upper East Side townhouses that they turned into one enormous property on East 75th Street — when they split in 2017. It was touted as the largest single-family home in Manhattan.
Last year, the tycoon, who made his fortune in Russian mining interests, became a Portuguese citizen, based on a law that grants citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews.
Portugal announced last month that it is investigating the naturalization after activists and politicians complained that the oligarch is using the citizenship to gain a foothold in Europe.
On Tuesday, Biden unveiled the “first tranche” of sanctions targeting two Kremlin-controlled banks, VEB and PSB, as well as oligarchs Petr Fradkov, Denis Bortnikov, and Vladimir Kiriyenko.
The Biden administration has disclosed little about the billionaires that they are planning to target in the future if Putin does not stand down in Ukraine.