From yachts and mansions to planes and works of art, Russian billionaires are being deprived of their expensive toys, under sanctions imposed by Western countries over their ties to Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine.

The seizure and freezing of assets hit a growing number of these "oligarchs" favored by the Kremlin, many of whom became rich in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The United Kingdom sanctioned more than 100, the United States 140 and the European Union more than 30.

The idea is to hit them where it hurts the most: to deny them "access to your fancy toys"in the words of the British Minister of Transport.

"The welcome mat is being rolled out" in the British capital, nicknamed for years "londongrad" for being a haven for Russian money, The Economist wrote.

Even the famous Roman Abramovich was forced to sell Chelsea FC, which he bought in 2003, under the pressure of sanctions.

But Alex Nice, an analyst at the Institute for Government think tank, warns that the West is moving into "totally uncharted territory".

When the war ends, there will be a deep gap between the Western countries and Russia, even if the assets were only frozen and not expropriated.

If the lifting of sanctions depends on the end of the war in Ukraine, "they will never get up"says the independent Russian political analyst Konstantin Kalachev, considering that this could last "years" and even expanded to fulfill Putin’s dream of recreating the Russian empire.

Soap opera

As a result of the sanctions, Forbes magazine last month removed 34 Russians from its annual list of billionaires.

"War is an absolute disaster for them"says Elisabeth Schimpfoessl, professor of sociology at Aston University, in the English city of Birmingham.

Oligarch Petr Aven, known for his large collection of Russian art, told the Financial Times that he did not know if he could employ "a cleaner or a chauffeur" and was to be expelled from the UK.

But many of these super-rich have multiple citizenships and are not rushing back to Russia.

Western countries have been for them a "base they can turn to at any time when they fear being persecuted in Russia"states Schimpfoessl, specifying that "the oligarchs have never bothered to develop the rule of law in Russia".

The amount of affected assets is enormous: the British government values ​​Abramovich at more than 9,000 million pounds (11,000 million dollars, 10,500 million euros). And two of his partners also sanctioned from him add another 10,000 million pounds.

EU countries reported the freezing of nearly $30 billion in Russian assets, including almost $7 billion worth of yachts, helicopters, property and works of art. And the United States said it had blocked ships and planes for more than 1,000 million dollars.

President Joe Biden has proposed making these sanctions permanent, stating that oligarchs should not be allowed to indulge in luxury while Ukrainian children die.

At Washington’s request, Fiji police last week seized a 106-meter-long yacht named "Amadea"valued at about 300 million dollars and linked to Suleiman Kerimov.

This news is not unpleasant in Russia: "ordinary Russians like to see that ‘the rich also cry’"says Kalachev, citing the famous Mexican soap opera that Russians watched in the early 1990s.

Opposition

What is not clear is whether the sanctions will affect Moscow’s decisions.

The oligarchs cannot influence Putin, because he meets with them "just to tell you things, it’s not a dialogue"Kalachev says.

And Nice points out that "the experience of using economic coercion to try to force a change in foreign policy has not been positive" in the past. But the sanctions "they will certainly weaken Russia’s fighting ability"he added.

With the consent of both parties, Abramovich has participated in talks to end the war. And other oligarchs have criticized the conflict.

On Instagram, businessman and banker Oleg Tinkov, sanctioned by the UK, criticized "this crazy war" and the "fucking army" From Russia. Mikhail Fridman called for an end to the bloodshed and Oleg Deripaska said that fighting on was a "craziness".

However, experts doubt that they will ally themselves against the feared Russian president.

"It would not be in their interest to speak out against Putin ahead of time"Schimpfoessl judgment.

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