Squatters briefly occupy a London mansion linked to a Russian oligarch with plans to house Ukrainian refugees


In an upscale area of ​​London surrounded by numerous foreign embassies, a large flag was seen draped over the balcony of a mansion reading: “This property has been vacated”.

The multi-million dollar mansion, linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was briefly occupied by a group of squatters overnight.

They said they were reclaiming property in Belgrave Square, central London, to house Ukrainian refugees.

“You occupy Ukraine, we occupy you,” the squatters, who describe themselves as anarchists, said in a statement.

“By occupying this mansion, we want to show our solidarity with the Ukrainian people, but also the Russian people who have never accepted this madness.”

After a long confrontation, police in riot gear used a drill to force open the front door and a crane to reach the squatters perched on the side of the building.

Eight people were arrested.

It took hours for the police to evict the squatters from the mansion in upmarket London. (Reuters: Peter Nicholls)

Britain froze the assets of Mr Deripaska last week, one of several Russian oligarchs targeted following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Deripaska holds stakes in the energy company En+ Group, which owns one of the world’s leading aluminum producers.

He is worth an estimated $3.6 billion and has a multi-million pound property portfolio in Britain, according to the UK government.

Campaigners have criticized how long it will take to implement UK sanctions against people identified by the government as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Britain has sanctioned around 20 Russian oligarchs, including Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, freezing their properties across London and banning them from coming to Britain.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters after the incident that the government was “working to identify the appropriate use of seized property while owners are subject to sanctions”.

More houses of Russian oligarchs targeted

In France, a similar protest unfolded in the southern city of Biarritz with protesters targeting the homes of Russian oligarchs.

Three men were questioned by police on Monday after they broke into a villa belonging to the former son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin and unfurled a Ukrainian flag.

A YouTube video showed one of those arrested waving a Ukrainian flag from one of the villa’s balconies.

A caption read: “The people’s house is ready to welcome refugees from the Putin regime”.

The three were questioned and then released with a warning.

Public demonstrations of protest

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its 20th day, anti-war protesters are going to great lengths to ensure their messages are heard.

A protester interrupted Russia’s most-watched evening news program on Monday to hold up a sign reading “No War”.

Marina Ovsyannikova, a journalist who works for the channel, was arrested after the protest and faces up to 15 years in prison.

She could be heard shouting: “Stop the war. No to the war”, as the news anchor continued to read on her teleprompter.

Ms Ovsyannikova posted a video of the incident – which quickly racked up more than 2.6 million views – and urged Russians to come out and protest.

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The protest was broadcast live on Russian government television channel Channel One.

Thousands of people in Russia have been arrested so far for protesting the conflict.

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during protests, said police arrested 817 people during protests in 37 cities across Russia on Sunday.

The group, which also provides legal assistance to those detained, said a total of 14,911 people were arrested during three weeks of anti-war protests.

A man is restrained on either side by two riot police.
OVD-Info reports that nearly 15,000 people have been arrested during anti-war protests in Russia.(Reuters)

Over the weekend, tens of thousands also took to the streets in European cities.

Up to 30,000 protesters gathered near Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate – a symbol of a divided Germany during the Cold War – and marched through the city streets, chanting and chanting at times.

Slogans on posters and banners included “Stop Putin”, “Stop War”, “Russian soldiers go home”, and “Solidarity with Ukraine!”

A heard view of a crowd of protesters at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
Around 30,000 people turned out at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Reuters: Lisi Niesner)

“If we take to the streets every other Sunday for a year, that’s fine too.”

This followed protests on Saturday in the Italian city of Florence, where the square outside the Basilica di Santa Croce became a sea of ​​rainbow peace flags dotted with blue and yellow.

In France, nearly 10,000 people demonstrated in cities across the country.

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