French and German leaders call for immediate ceasefire in Putin appeal

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Andrey Melnichenko’s mega yacht is seized by Italian finance police in Trieste, Italy on March 12. (Giorgio Boemo/Reuters)

Italian finance police seized Russian oligarch Andrey Melnichenko’s mega yacht in Trieste, Italy on Friday evening.

The Guardia di Finanza made the announcement in a statement released Friday evening. Called “SY A”, the yacht was in storage at the port of Trieste, according to the press release.

He is worth around 530 million euros ($578 million), the statement added. It is one of the largest superyachts in the world, according to builder Nobiskrug.

A video released by the Finance Police shows officers boarding the yacht.

Melnichenko was sanctioned by the European Union on March 9 as part of expanded sanctions against Russian oligarchs. According to the EU, it owns the main fertilizer producer EuroChem Group and SUEK, a coal company.

In the EU Council decision, which authorized sanctions against Melnichenko, they noted that he and 36 other business leaders met with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine to discuss the potential economic impact of EU and US sanctions.

“The fact that he was invited to this meeting shows that he is a member of Vladimir Putin’s closest circle and that he supports or implements actions or policies that undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as stability and security in Ukraine,” reads the EU Council decision.

“It also shows that he is one of the main businessmen involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of income to the Russian government, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Ukraine. .”

On Saturday, Melnichenko’s spokesman, Alex Andreev, told CNN that the Russian oligarch stepped down from the board of directors of Eurochem and SUEK (companies he founded) after the EU l sanctioned. Andreev also said Melnichenko was no longer the companies’ “beneficiary” either, in a statement to CNN.

When asked by CNN if Melnichenko had any comments on the situation in Ukraine, Andreev declined to provide further comment and instead provided his initial statement via email to CNN.

“Andrey Melnichenko is an international self-taught entrepreneur. It has no connection with the tragic events in Ukraine. He has no political affiliation,” Andreev said in the statement. “There is no justification for placing him on the EU sanctions list. We will challenge these baseless and unjustified sanctions, and believe that the rule of law and common sense will prevail.

The news comes as many Russian elites scramble to move and sell assets amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Just days after Russian oligarch and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich announced he would sell the football club, the UK has added the 55-year-old to its list of sanctioned individuals under the of his efforts to “isolate” Putin.

On March 3, the French Finance Ministry announced that the country had seized a yacht belonging to Russian oligarch and CEO of Russian oil giant Rosneft Igor Sechin.

The European Union had sanctioned Sechin earlier in the week, describing him as one of Putin’s “most trusted and closest advisers, as well as his personal friend”.

CNN’s Kara Scannell, Jessica Schneider, Amy Woodyatt and Niamh Kennedy contributed to this post.

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