Britain impounds private jet with suspected links to Russian oligarch amid new aviation sanctions

A plane, according to Swiss media reports believed to be used in the past by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, is pictured on the grounds of EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg near Mulhouse, France, March 9, 2022.
Arnd Wiegmann | Reuters

LONDON — The U.K. said on Wednesday it had impounded a private jet connected to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich under new aviation sanctions levied at the pariah state amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The jet is said to be linked to Soviet-born billionaire, Eugene Shvidler, a close associate of outgoing Chelsea F.C. owner Abramovich, who last week embarked on a fire sale of his British assets amid growing pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

British Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the jet was seized at Farnborough Airport, on the outskirts of London, and awaits further investigation.

The capture is part of new sanctions, set to be laid out in legislation on Wednesday, which give authorities the right to detain any Russian aircraft and ban exports of aviation or space-related goods to Russia.

That includes a ban on any aircraft owned, operated or chartered by anyone connected with Russia or designated individuals or entities, and will include the power to detain any aircraft owned by persons connected with Russia, the British Foreign Office said in a statement.

The measures also make it a criminal offence for any Russian aircraft to fly or land in the U.K.

It is not yet clear whether the seized jet, which is registered in Luxembourg rather than Russia, falls under the U.K.’s new remit. However, authorities said they are working with the Civil Aviation Authority to clarify the details.

To be sure, Shvidler, who made his fortune during the privatization of Russian industry, has his own direct links with the Kremlin as well through his personal and business relationships with Abramovich. Abramovich himself has so far avoided any direct sanctions.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said the new measures were designed to place further economic pressure on Putin and his allies.

“Banning Russian flagged planes from the U.K. and making it a criminal offence to fly them will inflict more economic pain on Russia and those close to the Kremlin,” Truss said in a statement.

The ban on the export of aviation or space-related goods extends to insurance and re-insurance policies. That means cover will be withdrawn on existing policies and British-based insurers and reinsurers will be unable to pay claims on existing policies in those sectors.

Sophie Tremblay

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