The British government has indefinitely detained private jets owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch.
Two jets belonging to billionaire tycoon Eugene Shvidler had been under investigation at Farnborough and Biggin Hill airports for three weeks and have now been detained indefinitely, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed on Saturday.
Mr Shvidler, who was sanctioned for his ties to Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, is a former boss and shareholder in Mr Abramovich’s steel giant Evraz PLC and has been identified as a person benefitting from or supporting president Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Announcing the seizure on Twitter, Mr Shapps wrote: “Putin’s friends who made millions out of his regime will not enjoy luxuries whilst innocent people die.”
Mr Shvidler was officially sanctioned on a new list of measures targeting 65 Russian oligarchs, banks and defence companies, which was published by the government on Thursday.
The Times has reported that ministers are said to be considering how to handle the asset, with the option of selling the private jets available if they wished.
Mr Shvidler is estimated to be worth an estimated £1.2 billion while his private jets are worth an estimated $60m (£45m), according to the government.
A private helicopter belonging to Russian firm HeliCo Group LLC has also been detained, the government has said.
“We want to see an end to the merciless, bloody war which Putin is pursuing,” Mr Shapps said in a statement.
“Since Putin began his illegal assault, we have used every power at our disposal to crush his cronies who could financially benefit him.
“Introducing these latest measures – detaining tens of millions of pounds worth of Russian private jets – shows this government will leave no stone unturned in depriving Putin’s cronies of their luxury toys.”
New aviation sanctions introduced by the government on 8 March prohibit Russian registered aircraft and those owned, operated, or chartered by anyone connected with Russia from entering UK airspace and landing in the UK.
Additionally, they prohibit Russian ships from entering ports in the UK. They give powers to the secretary of state and harbour authorities to detain Russian ships, or specified ships, at UK ports or anchorages.
Announcing new sanctions this week, foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “These oligarchs, businesses and hired thugs are complicit in the murder of innocent civilians and it is right that they pay the price.
“Putin should be under no illusions – we are united with our allies and will keep tightening the screw on the Russian economy to help ensure he fails in Ukraine. There will be no let-up.”