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Documents show Putin’s order to move superyacht before Ukraine invasion

Vladimir Putin moved his $100m (£75m) superyacht from a German shipyard to Russia just weeks before he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, according to secret documents released in a new investigation.

A Russian anti-corruption organisation set up by the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny claims emails show that the Russian president ordered the urgent moving of the 82-metre superyacht, called Graceful, from a shipyard in Hamburg, where it was undergoing a $32m refit, by 1 February 2022.

Photos show the ship being towed out of Hamburg on 7 February en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, after the shipyard missed the 1 February deadline.

Just 15 days later – on 22 February – Putin ordered the full-blown invasion of Ukraine. After the invasion, the US, UK and EU imposed sanctions on Russian-owned assets overseas, and dozens of oligarch-owned superyachts were seized across the world.

The US government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) lists the Graceful as “blocked property in which President Vladimir Putin has an interest”.

The Graceful, also codenamed Kosatka, or Killer Whale, which features a 15-metre indoor swimming pool that can be converted into a dancefloor, is just one of several superyachts linked to Putin.

An email sent to Hamburg’s Blohm+Voss shipyard on 19 January 2022 said: “The owner wants the Graceful to be brought to the Russian Federation on February 1st … Please mobilise an uninterrupted crew – 2 shifts.” It continued: “Please accelerate all works which may interfere with Graceful sailing out on 01 February.”

The emails said the owner wanted to remove the boat to the Russian Federation to complete the works. “The owner is not happy with the retrofit. He is dissatisfied with the delays in the construction process,” the email from SCF Group, Russia’s largest shipping company, said. The work had been expected to take more than a year.

The emails are disclosed in a report by Russian investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh, who leads an anti-corruption foundation set up by Navalny.

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“Half of the country is forced to raise money for underwear and socks for mobilised soldiers, and to make trench candles, while the person who unleashed this war spends 3bn roubles just on repairs and purchases for his yacht,” her report states.

Putin’s largest superyacht, the $700m Scheherazade, has been impounded in the Italian port of Marina di Carrara, where it was undergoing repairs. He is also named by the US as the owner of a smaller superyacht called Olympia, valued at $22m.

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