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Yacht's the Way to Send the Oligarchs a Message

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Calls grow to impound Russian billionaires' luxury boats in protest at shooting down of MH17

The luxury superyachts of billionaire oligarchs could be seized as part of a squeeze on Vladimir Putin's Russia as international outrage builds over the attack on passenger jet MH17.

Foreign policy experts raised the prospect of levying sanctions on the super-rich allies of the Russian president as a way of punishing the country over its links to attack on the passenger jet.

Dozens of wealthy businessmen with links to Putin's government are based outside the country, as are their prized yachts, some of which are worth as much as £1billion.

This could make them a target for sanctions by the international community, and they could be impounded by court as a way to 'make life difficult' for those at the top and exert pressure on Russia.

Super-wealthy businessmen including Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, metals trader Oleg Deripaska and energy magnate Andrey Melnichenko have strong links to the Russian leader and also flaunt their wealth with glamorous ships.

The vessels could become targets of governments looking to teach Russia a lesson, and become a 'symbolic' way to discipline the country, alongside wider sanctions being considered against the Russian economy.

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Dr Andrew Foxall, an expert from the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said there was a 'stronger case than ever' for seizing the ships, which would send a 'symbolic but important message' to Russia.

'The point of these sanctions is to get at the people who enable Putin to act as he is doing - and sanctions are one of the best ways of doing that.' 

'It's part of a wider clamping-down on them, their lifestyle they lead in the West while facilitating and enabling Putin to do as he has been doing in eastern Ukraine and Russia.

'There's a legitimate argument for looking at their broader lifestyles, and manifestations of ostentatious wealth, like yachts for example.'

Putin has been blamed by the West for the attack last week which led to the jet being shot down. It is believed a surface-to-air missile used by pro-Russian rebels brought down the blame, killing all 298 on board.

Other experts said that while sanctions on oligarch's yachts would send a strong signal, it could be difficult to enact because governments would need to prove the men were directly linked to the situation.

It was also suggested that authorities in ports where oligarchs' tend to moor their prize possessions could be reluctant to seize the ships for fear of scaring off other super-rich holidaymakers.

A spokesman for the Open Europe think-tank told MailOnline: 'Dictators like Saddam Hussein and the Gadaffis have had their yachts impounded in the past.

'Sanctions are always a bit of a mixed bag - if you're trying to ostracise a country they can be quite effective.

'For individuals, you can make life very difficult for them - but in this case it's not clear how much influence these people have on Putin and Russia.'

*Original story: The Daily Mail via Google News (search term: yacht)
*Photo credits: Flickr/David van der Mark & Flickr/Moshi Anahory  CC2.0
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