Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a “full-scale” attack in Ukraine on Thursday, reportedly launching missiles and bombs into cities at dawn. It came just hours after the Kremlin’s leader declared war on Ukraine in a televised address calling for the country’s “de-Nazification.”
The United Kingdom and its allies reacted quickly. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to impose “massive” sanctions on Russia in order to “hobble” its economy. The details of the sanctions, according to Johnson, will be coordinated with the country’s international allies. In response to the invasion of Ukraine, he urged the West to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas. On Tuesday, Germany made the decision to shut down the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, an $11 billion project between Russia and Germany.
However, many believe that these sanctions will have little impact on Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said the sanctions were “too little, too late” to deter Putin’s aggressive behavior. Many people are calling for tougher sanctions against Putin and his inner circle, which raises questions about how wealthy the Russian president is and where the majority of his wealth is distributed around the world.
In a scene straight out of a James Bond film, just days before Western nations were expected to impose sanctions on Russia, a $125 million superyacht believed to be owned by Putin sailed from German waters to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad. The luxury yacht, Graceful, had been docked in Hamburg for repairs before departing abruptly on February 7.
Putin was named the world’s richest man in 2017, according to Fortune magazine, with a net worth of $200 billion. “After 14 years in power in Russia, and the amount of money that the country has made, and the amount of money that hasn’t been spent on schools and roads and hospitals and so on, all that money is in property, bank, Swiss bank accounts, shares, hedge funds, managed for Putin and his cronies,” Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder said in 2015.
A $1.37 billion palace was featured in a viral video last year by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has since been jailed for allegedly embezzling donations, an accusation he has vehemently denied. The luxury Black Sea property, according to Navalny, was paid for “with the largest bribe in history; [they] built a palace for their boss with his money.” One builder likened the palace to the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. “”I believe about 1,500 people were working on the construction site at the time,” the builder told the BBC in 2011. “There were Russians, Uzbeks, and soldiers.” There was a rush to finish it.” According to others who worked at the site, the property included a Japanese garden, a gym made out of marble, an underground ice hockey rink and a vineyard.
However, he was imprisoned in 2003 on charges of tax evasion and fraud. He vehemently denied the allegations. Khodorkovsky’s fortune was frozen, and his businesses were dismantled. However, Browder, who is wanted by Putin after being sentenced to nine years in prison in 2019 for tax evasion in Russia and money laundering, told Forbes that his arrest may have allowed Putin to strike new deals with other oligarchs. “The deal was, ‘You give me 50% of your wealth, and I’ll let you keep the other 50%,'” he explained. “If you don’t, I’ll take all of your money and throw you in jail.”
Another theory holds that Putin amassed his fortune by using his government position to benefit his family and close friends. Forbes speculated that those in his inner circle would offer him money or stakes in a company acquired as a result of his assistance. In the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of Putin’s friends, Arkady Rotenberg, received more than $7 billion in state contracts.