U.S. and E.U. Are Going After Putin’s Wealth. First They Need To Find It
The U.S., E.U. are looking to impose more financial sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin in light of his invasion of Ukraine. are set to freeze the assets of Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov—both of whom are believed to have amassed extreme wealth.
According to some reports, Putin is one of the These are the richest people around the globeAlthough his net worth may be known, it is almost impossible to determine the exact amount. And freezing his assets won’t be easy, as they are likely distributed across a secret web of shell companies, real estate and other people’s accounts. Bill Browder was an American investor and became a well-known Kremlin critic. The U.S. Senate was informedPutin had $200 billion of assets in 2017.
Despite this complexity, it is difficult for leaders around the world to target sanctions correctly due to his holdings. E.U. However, foreign policy officers aren’t backing down. “I can assure you that if you got major assets and all of a sudden you can’t get hold of them, it will cost you,” E.U. Josep Borrell was the chief of foreign affairs. He spoke at a press conference Friday. Even so, there is “a whole lot of work that needs to be done” to track down their E.U.-based assets, since Putin and Lavrov’s financial holdings are likely in other names, Borrell noted.
Learn More: Here’s What We Know So Far About Russia’s Assault on Ukraine
Estimates of Putin’s wealth have varied wildly over the years. In 2012, Stanislav Belkovsky, a former mid-level Kremlin adviser, claimed Putin had a fortune worth at least $70 billion—a figure that would put him in the top 20 of Forbes’ ranking of billionaires today. Belkovsky’s calculus was based on Putin’s alleged stakes in several Russian companies, primarily in the oil sector. In 2022, Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist and author, estimates that Putin has somewhere between $100 billion and $130 billion in assets—a calculation based on the wealth of Putin’s oligarch confidants, which could be between $500 million and $2 billion each.
Official disclosures from the Kremlin list Putin’s annual income around $140,000, and show that he owns a 800-square-foot apartment in St. Petersburg along with two Soviet-era cars, an off-road truck and car trailer. Experts say that these assets do not account for the wealth held by his close circle. The Panama Papers and Pandora Papers—leaked documents that contain information about wealthy individuals Hidden money via a network offshore bank accounts and companies—suggest that Russians with close ties to Putin have amassed fortunes that his family also benefits from.
“He keeps his money in the West,” Browder said in his 2017 testimony, but that money is “potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation.” Although the exact location of Putin’s financial holdings remains a mystery, it’s unlikely he keeps money in the U.S.— suggesting the Biden administration’s decision to join E.U. The decision by leaders to freeze his assets was mainly symbolic. Sanctioning Putin and Lavrov “sends a clear message about the strength of the opposition to the actions by President Putin and the direction in his leadership of the Russian military,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.
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Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition leader currently held in jail wrote to TIME’s Simon Shuster in November that U.S. sanctions would be far more effective by going after Putin’s own fortune as well as assets his allies keep for him in Western banks. “It’s really simple,” Navalny wrote. “You want to influence Putin, then influence his personal wealth. It’s right under your backside.” Navalny’s foundation sent a similar message to the White House early last year, asking for sanctions against 35 of Russia’s most senior officials and oligarchs close to Putin, some of whom were later sanctioned.
Navalny has tried to do his part in exposing some of Putin’s hidden wealth. He published a January report. Video that shows a $1.4 billion palace on Russia’s Black Sea that Putin allegedly owns. Putin has denied being the property’s owner. The underground ice rink is surrounded by two helipads and an amphitheater.
The use of personal sanctions against foreign dignitaries is a powerful tool. E.U. sanctioned top Syrian officials and Belarusian officials, while U.S. sanctions were placed on leaders in Myanmar, Venezuela, Hong Kong, and Venezuela.
Freezing portions of Putin’s wealth could be a significant blow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pesko has warned that personal sanctions on Putin would be “politically destructive,” but Putin may already be worried. Two weeks ago, Russian forces invaded Ukraine. A superyacht worth $125million that Pesko reportedly owned was spotted sailing from Germany to Russia on the Baltic Sea. Its scheduled repairs hadn’t been finished. This yacht has a indoor pool measuring 49 feet that can convert into a dancefloor.