Igor Sechin’s superyacht has a helipad that converts into a swimming pool. Viktor Rashnikov’s seven-deck vessel comes with six pools for its 28 guests. Dmitry Pumpyansky’s boat’s onboard jacuzzi is a hit with everyone from Kendall Jenner to Lewis Hamilton – or at least it was, before the Russian steel magnate’s beloved boat was seized in Gibraltar as part of a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse amongst oligarchs’ mega-yachts since the start of the Ukraine war.
Yachts of those linked to Vladimir Putin are being confiscated by authorities in (mostly European) ports across the world but for some of those marina-hopping to avoid sanctions are finding it harder to lay low than others. Businessman Dmitry Kamenshchik’s mega-boat is the height of three London buses end-to-end and comes with an onboard hospital and dive school, and a boat docked in Italy that’s reportedly owned by Putin himself is the size of two apartment blocks, with local captains saying it’s the biggest they’ve ever seen – and that’s by superyacht standards.
No wonder members of Russia’s billionaire big boat club are starting to sweat. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s nine-deck A-list party palace has already been met by activists with Ukrainian flags to stop it docking, and Ragnar, a £58 million icebreaker owned by mining tycoon Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, has been stuck in a Norwegian port since mid-February because no one will sell it fuel due to the owner’s links to the Russian president.
From Russian sailboats with their own submarines to the £140 million vessel where Bennifer rekindled their romance last summer, this is a guide to the brashest boats in the battle of the high seas.
Vladimir Putin’s six-floor mega-vessel
(Alleged) Owner: Russian President Vladimir Putin
USP: A weapon system capable of shooting down drones
Seizure status: Unseized in Italy
“It’s the largest yacht I’ve ever seen here… We’re all wondering who the owner is”. That’s what one Italian yacht owner told reporters last week of the mysterious superyacht – one of the 20 biggest in the world – docked in Tuscany’s Marina di Carrara near hers for the last few months (it reportedly features a spa, cinema, wood-burning fireplace, two helipads and a pool table that tilts to adjust for the waves).
The mega-vessel was built in 2020 and its ownership been cloaked in secrecy from the start. Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky is one of those piling pressure on Italian authorities to seize the boat, with US authorities and activists linked to Alexei Navalny all pointing to the same suspected owner: Vladimir Putin.
“They are Russian state employees, military personnel, and they regularly travel to Italy as a group to work on the mysterious yacht,” investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh has said of the crew members, amid rumours that all 40 of them have now been removed from the vessel and replaced with British crew.
Pevchikh looked up many of the previous crew using phone numbers and credit score data and claims they were all Russian apart from the captain, a British national called Guy Bennett-Pearce who denies ever seeing Putin on board and whose mother said this week that he would never work for a “murderer”.
She claims that some of the crew worked for Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO), the agency responsible for the president’s personal security, while one of them has reportedly worked aboard Graceful, a 270ft boat that has also been linked to Putin. Scheherazade has also reportedly travelled twice to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Putin has a residence.
Roman Abramovich’s A-list party palace
Owner: Sanctioned Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich
A-list crew: Princess Beatrice, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, Kendall Jenner
USP: Built-in missile defences, bullet-proof windows, “anti-paparazzi” tech and a miniature submarine
Seizure status: Unseized in Turkey
While Putin’s alleged yacht hides out in Italy, one of his closest ties in the UK, Roman Abramovich, has moved his to Turkey in a bid to evade sanctions. German-built Eclipse is the biggest beast in the Russian billionaire’s flotilla and was custom-made for him in 2010, featuring nine decks, two helipads, two swimming pools, several hot tubs, a gym, beauty salon and even an onboard nightclub.
It was the world’s longest private yacht until 2013, and has room for 24 guests. Princess Beatrice, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry and Kendall Jenner have all been spotted partying onboard the £175,000-a-night vessel in Cannes over recent years – presumably keen to take advantage of the ship’s rumoured “anti-paparazzi” system designed to disrupt attempts to photograph passengers.
The vessel spends much of its time in the Caribbean where the Chelsea owner has a 70-acre beachside estate on the billionaire island of St Barts. But last month it was seen fleeing the Caribbean island of St Maarten and it has reportedly now been moved to Marmaris in the heart of the Turkish Riviera, where it was met with activists – including children – waving a “no war”-branded Ukrainian flag from an inflatable dingy in a bid to stop him docking.
Abramovich’s second biggest beast and the newest addition to his fleet, Solaris (featuring eight decks, a helipad and onboard beach club), has also been moved to Turkey in a bid to escape sanctions. The 48-cabin vessel was built in Germany and features the largest planes of glass ever built into a yacht.
It is currently docked 40 miles down the coast from Eclipse in Bodrum, where Abramovich has holidayed in the past, after slipping out of a Barcelona port earlier this month – and just in time. Six days later, Spanish officials there seized Valerie, the superyacht owned by former KGB boss Sergei Chemezov.
Alisher Usmanov’s big-b(u)oy boat
Owner: Sanctioned billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov, who has financial interests in Everton FC and family ties to Putin (his wife is a gymnastics coach who helped Putin’s rumoured girlfriend Alina Kabaeva)
USP: The Dilbar is the largest motor yacht in the world by gross tonnage (15,917), featuring the largest indoor pool ever installed on a yacht
Seizure status: Allegedly seized in Germany
Steel magnate Usmanov’s custom-built mega-boat has been described as “one of the most complex and challenging yachts ever built, in terms of both dimensions and technology” – but that didn’t seem to stop the the German authorities, who are reported to have seized it in Hamburg.
Hamburg officials have denied such reports, saying “no yachts have been confiscated” but three sources in the yacht industry told Forbes that the boat was seized by German authorities last week. Other reports claim the boat has not been seized but that all the vessel’s staff have been fired, suggesting that even Russia’s sixth-richest man (once the UK’s richest person) couldn’t afford their wages following Western sanctions.
“We have tried all avenues to find a solution to keep the team in place, and protect our positions, but have reached the end of the road of possibilities,” the boat’s captain Tim Armstrong reportedly wrote in a message to the crew.
No wonder. At 15,917 tonnes, the Dilbar (named after Usmanov’s mother) reportedly costs the same as four supercars to fill up with fuel (that’s approximately £45m to run it every year). It sleeps a crew of 96, plus 24 guests across 12 suites, with 1,000 cushions to keep them comfortable on deck. Standout facilities include two helicopter pads, a beach deck, garden, sauna, beauty salon, gym and the largest indoor pool (25m) ever installed on a yacht.
Dmitry Pumpyansky’s floating beach house
Owner: Sanctioned billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky, owner and chairman of steel pipe manufacturer OAO TMK, a supplier to Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom
A-list crew: Kendall Jenner, Lewis Hamilton, Hailey Bieber and Gigi and Bella Hadid
USP: An inflatable waterslide and interiors fit for a Kardashian
Seizure status: Seized in Gibraltar
Pumpyansky’s mega-boat was previously docked in Antigua but set sail in early March for Gibraltar, where it was promptly detained. The vessel features five decks, a 3D cinema, on-deck infinity pool, jacuzzi with a swim-up bar, steam room, gym and watersports toys including jet skis.
With space for 12 guests alongside its 20-person crew, Axioma might not rival Usmanov’s boat on size, but it certainly does on star status. Kendall Jenner reportedly chartered the boat for her 19th birthday, inviting Gigi and Bella Hadid, Lewis Hamilton and Hailey Bieber to join her on the £420,00-a -week boat in Monaco.
According to superyachtfan.com, it’s the largest motor yacht ever built in Turkey, with a “beach house”-style inside. Images on chartering site Northrop & Johnson show interiors decked out with white and gold furnishings, shiny granite and natural wood fittings and bold modern artworks on the walls.
Vladimir Strzhalkovsky’s English-style icebreaker
Owner: Unsanctioned mining tycoon, former KGB agent and longtime Putin acquaintance Vladimir Strzhalkovsky
USP: Onboard jet skis, snowmobiles and an English-style pub
Seizure status: Unseized in Norway
Ragnar (an old norse word meaning “warrior”) might not have been seized, nor its owner sanctioned, but it’s unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon. According to latest reports, the £382,000-a-week converted icebreaker has been stuck in a Norwegian port since mid-February because no one will sell it fuel due to the owner’s links to the Russian president.
“We find the discrimination against us, extremely unjust… We have nothing to do with the owner of the boat,” the yacht’s captain, Robert Lankester, wrote in a message after Norwegian fuel suppliers said he and his 16-person crew can “row home” or “use a sail”.
Lankester is a British former Royal Marine and insists that none of his crew are Russian – “they just want to go home” and have resorted to catching and barbecuing fresh cod in the meantime.
At least there is plenty to keep them occupied and make them feel at home while they wait. According to Boat International, not only does the Arctic-ready vessel also include four ski scooters, a giant slide, snowmobiles and equipment for heli-skiing, but there’s also a room specifically designed to resemble a British pub.
Igor Sechin’s statesmanly ship
Name: Amore Vero
Owner: Igor Sechin, the sanctioned boss of Russia’s state energy company Rosneft, former deputy prime minister of Russia and a close ally of Putin
USP: A swimming pool that converts into a helipad
Seizure status: Seized in France
France might just have stolen the heart of Russia’s top oil tycoon (and one of Putin’s closest advisers), if the name of his boat Amore Vero ( “true love”) is anything to go by. Igor Sechin’s 280ft Netherlands-built superyacht was seized by officials in the small Mediterranean fishing port of La Ciotat near Marseille in early March. It had been due to stay there until late April while undergoing repairs, but authorities say they found the crew preparing for an urgent departure when they arrived.
The award-winning yacht has a 28-strong crew and staterooms for 14 guests, including two VIP suites with private balconies. There are two private owner’s decks, a jacuzzi and even a swimming pool that turns into a helipad. A second of Sechin’s mega-yachts, the £45 million Crescent, has also been seized in Spain.
Dmitry Kamenshchik’s Beyoncé-approved record-breaker
Name: Flying Fox
Owner: Unsanctioned Russian businessman Dmitry Kamenshchik, chairman of Moscow Domodedovo Airport
A-list crew: Beyoncé and Jay-Z
USP: An onboard hospital, professional dive centre and two-floor spa with the first on-yacht cryo-sauna
Seizure status: Unseized in the Dominican Republic
Picture three London buses balanced end-on-end. That’s the height of Dmitry Kamenshchik’s motor-boat palace, which towers 32 metres above the water and officially claims the crown for the world’s largest charter yacht. At £2.5 million-a-week (without food, fuel or extras), it’s also the most expensive to charter and was rented out by power couple royalty Beyoncé and Jay-Z for a summer holiday last September.
No wonder it caught their eye. The cruise-like ship comes with an onboard hospital, cinema, al fresco kitchen with a rotisserie, barbecue and multiple teppanyaki grills, and a world-leading spa that would be impressive even if it was firmly on dry land. Set over two floors, it features heated limestone flooring and a giant spa pool with hot and cold tanks for switching between steaming and icy modes in as little as 10 minutes.
For adrenaline-loving guests, the ship also features a water garage with an impressive fleet of nine tenders, toys from hoverboards to jet skis and even space for a submarine, if the owner ever chooses to install one. Oh, and there’s also professional dive centre with a three-person decompression chamber and a team of instructors including former Marines and Olympians.
Other staff members double-up as hairdressers and every member of the crew has military experience – which might come in handy given the limitations being imposed on high net-worth Russians like Kamenshchik, whether they’re sanctioned or not.
Alexei Mordashov’s luxury warship
Owner: Russia’s richest man Alexei Mordashov, a sanctioned steel magnate with an estimated net worth of $29.1 billion
USP: Military-grade facilities (and style). Nord features its own helicopter hangar and two helipads
Seizure status: Unseized in the Seychelles
Nord – named after Mordashov’s gold-mining company – is currently anchored in the Seychelles, where Western sanctions don’t apply. The aptly-described “Tuxedo’d warship” looks more like a small aircraft carrier than a luxury yacht, featuring a beach club, swimming pool, cinema, gym, sauna and beauty salon. Designers say she was made with one idea in mind: “she must cause strong emotions in every observer, not only through her sheer size, but with the design itself”.
The sleek superyacht is the biggest in the businessman’s fleet of mega-boats, sleeping 36 guests, but it currently remains unseized. One of his other superyachts, the £42m 215ft Lady M (pictured above), was seized in Italy earlier this month.
Andrey Melnichenko’s eight-deck sailboat
Name: SY A (short for Sailing Yacht A)
Owner: Sanctioned chemical and coal magnate Andrey Melnichenko, founder of fertilizer producer EuroChem Group and coal energy company SUEK
USP: The world’s tallest masts and its own submarine
Seizure status: Seized in Italy
Melnichenko’s superyacht is one of the few owned by oligarchs to actually feature sails – and he certainly doesn’t do things by half. The futuristic-looking grey sailing boat was designed by A-list architect Philippe Starck and features the world’s tallest masts, each more than a football field in height above the deck, making it the world’s largest power-assisted sailing yacht (though it is rarely actually spotted sailing).
The eight-decker also sports multiple elevators, an underwater observation area and – allegedly – its own submarine. It was seized in the Italian port of Trieste in March.
Sergei Chemezov’s Hollywood dream boat
Owner: Sanctioned arms tycoon Sergei Chemezov, chief executive of Russian state-owned defence conglomerate Rostec who used to work with Putin as a KGB spy
A-list crew: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck
USP: Bennifer approval
Seizure status: Seized in Spain
Valerie might have just been seized in Barcelona for belonging to Putin’s KGB pal Sergei Chemezov, but it is probably more famous for the headlines it made in the south of France last July. The mega-boat was reportedly the same vessel where Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck chose to rekindle their on-off romance last summer, after the Hollywood power pair were spotted cosying up on the glistening sundeck in Saint Tropez.
J-Lo is said to have hired the vessel for her 52nd birthday celebrations, having spent $200,000 on flights to get there. The iconic mega-yacht has cost €950,00 a week to charter in the past and comes with jet skis and equipment for offshore fishing – although Instagram suggests the couple were probably more interested in staying onboard.
The six-deck cruiser features a 20ft swimming pool, spa, jacuzzi hot tub and space for 17 guests and 27 crew. Perhaps it was one of them behind the singer’s onboard bikini birthday shoot, which has been liked more than 8 million times and shows her and Affleck kissing on the deck.
Viktor Rashnikov’s swimmer’s paradise
Name: Ocean Victory
Owner: Sanctioned steel magnate Viktor Rashnikov, chairman of one of Russia’s largest steelmakers MMK
USP: Six pools, a floodable tender garage and an underwater observation room
Seizure status: Unseized in the Maldives
Swimming pools are a superyacht essential in the oligarch world, but Viktor Rashnikov’s has six. That’s one for every five guests – which seems like a waste, given the yacht isn’t even available for charter.
Too late now anyway – the boat not have been seized (yet), but it’s certainly making a break for it. According to Bloomberg, it’s been spotted around the Maldives, a popular spot among hiding yacht-owners as it has no extradition treaty with the US. The seven-deck cruiser sleeps 28 guests and 56 crew and reportedly comes with a helipad, underwater observation suite and a floodable tender dock for smaller boats.
Eugene Shvidler’s Mercedes on the water
Name: Le Grand Bleu
Owner: Sanctioned oil magnate Eugene Shvidler
USP: An onboard aquarium and Land Rover 4×4
Seizure status: Unseized in the Caribbean
Designers say Shvidler’s boat was specifically designed “to look like a Mercedes” on the water – and buoy, does owner Shvidler like to show it off (or before the sanctions, anyway). In 2017, he deliberately anchored it in front of the Statue of Liberty for two months, blocking New Yorkers’ selfies in what the New York Post called a “jackass move”.
Perhaps part of the reason the oil magnate likes to show it off is the fact that he reportedly won it in a high-stakes wager against fellow oligarch Abramovich in 2006. It features an onboard aquarium, two boats capable of speeding at 69mph and a landing craft with its own Land Rover 4×4 for adventuring on dry-land.
- 1 Vladimir Putin’s six-floor mega-vessel
- 2 Roman Abramovich’s A-list party palace
- 3 Alisher Usmanov’s big-b(u)oy boat
- 4 Dmitry Pumpyansky’s floating beach house
- 5 Vladimir Strzhalkovsky’s English-style icebreaker
- 6 Igor Sechin’s statesmanly ship
- 7 Dmitry Kamenshchik’s Beyoncé-approved record-breaker
- 8 Alexei Mordashov’s luxury warship
- 9 Andrey Melnichenko’s eight-deck sailboat
- 10 Sergei Chemezov’s Hollywood dream boat
- 11 Viktor Rashnikov’s swimmer’s paradise
- 12 Eugene Shvidler’s Mercedes on the water