Secret documents prove Putin moved his £100million superyacht three weeks before he ordered the invasion of Ukraine to avoid having it seized as part of war sanctions, a new investigation has claimed.
The revelation suggests that Putin was planning for the personal consequences of his act of aggression – launched on February 24, 2022 – well in advance.
According to the papers, the Russian despot had his yacht ‘Graceful’ sail from the famous Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany to the Russian semi-exclave of Kaliningrad two weeks before the invasion.
The documents, released by Russian investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh – who heads the anti-corruption foundation set up by Alexei Navalny – show an email was sent to Blohm & Voss saying its owner was unhappy with an on-going ‘refit’.
The email, sent by an employee of ‘SCF Group’ (or Sovcomflot – Russia’s largest shipping company), tells the shipyard that Graceful’s ‘owner’ wants the ship to sail out of the Hamburg port on February 1, 2022.
Pictured: The yacht ‘Graceful’ sails along the Kiel Canal (Nord Ostsee Kanal) near Rendsburg, north of Hamburg, Germany, February 7, 2022. Picture taken February 7, 2022
On board, the three-deck ship boasts suites that can house up to 12 guests and 14 crew, a 50-foot indoor swimming pool that turns into a theatre and dance floor (pictured) with the press of a button, a helipad, a gym, and a wine cave that can store 400 bottles
Pictures of its interior show marble floors and luxury wooden furnishings costing tens of thousands of pounds and Roman-style pillars in the bedrooms (pictured)
The email does not provide a reason why the owner (Putin) is unhappy with the on-going refit, saying only that it must set sail within days.
‘The owner is not happy with the retrofit. He is dissatisfied with the delays in the construction process,’ the email says.
‘The owner wants the Graceful to be brought to the Russian Federation on February 1st (…). Please mobilise an uninterrupted crew – 2 shifts.’
The email, sent on January 19, 2022, adds: ‘Please accelerate all works which may interfere with Graceful sailing out on 01 February.
‘Please calculate the amount to be paid by Owners due to early departure. Crew and myself will provide full assistance to prepare Graceful for Towing.’
It goes on to instruct the shipbuilders: ‘Please prepare the contract modification and the plan of the works [for] completion on the Russian territory.’
Blohm & Voss, a German company with 150 years of experience in building and servicing super yachts (and which built Adolf Hitler’s yacht ‘Grille’ in 1934), was set to work on Graceful – which it also built in 2014 – for at least another year.
According to Alexey Navalny’s investigators, the email sent panic through Blohm & Voss, which was forced to cancel this work and get the ship ready to set sail in just 12 days. What’s more, the yacht’s crew – who were living in Hamburg – had to quickly move out of their homes, cancel their cell phone contracts, and get ready to depart.
The investigators say the yacht was not ready at all, and still had open holes in its surface which needed to be covered with shields, while other parts had to be assembled before it could set sail.
The reason for the sudden urgency was a mystery to all but one man: Putin. It would only become clear why the work was cancelled so quickly weeks later.
According to the papers, Vladimir Putin (pictured on the deck of a yacht in 2021) had his yacht ‘Graceful’ sail from from the famous Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany to the Russian semi-exclave of Kaliningrad two weeks before the invasion
The documents, released by Russian investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh – who heads the anti-corruption foundation set up by Alexei Navalny, show an email was sent to shipbuilders Blohm & Voss saying its owner was unhappy with an on-going ‘refit’ and that it was to return to Russia ‘to complete’ the work (pictured)
Pictured: A blueprint for Putin’s Graceful yacht, one of 20,000 documents released by investigative journalists working for Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation
Reports suggest the company did not meet the deadline of February 1, with pictures showing Graceful being towed out of Hamburg on February 7.
Nevetheless, the yacht reached the Russian port of Kaliningrad before Putin ordered the full scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022.
In response, the UK, US, European Union and other allied nations imposed sanctions on the Russian leader, those within his inner circle, as well as Russian businesses and organisations.
As part of these sanctions, Putin and his allied Oligarchs have seen their assets seized across the world, including numerous superyachts and houses.
But the report from Pevchikh suggests Putin was preparing for this eventuality by ordering Graceful – which has since be renamed Kosatka (Russian for ‘killer whale’) – to return to a friendly port well in advance.
For a long time, it was presumed that Putin was the owner of the 270-foot superyacht. This was confirmed when a Russian publication tracked its movements and matched those to Putin’s own travels, as well as its activity before the war.
Finished in 2014, Graceful – Putin’s second largest yacht – is said to have cost 87 million euros (£75 million) at the time, and is one of many assets that demonstrate Putin’s exorbitant wealth which he works hard to keep from the public.
On board, the three-deck ship boasts suites that can house up to 12 guests and 14 crew, a 50-foot indoor swimming pool that turns into a theatre and dance floor with the press of a button, a helipad, a gym, and a wine cave that can store 400 bottles.
Pictures of its interior show marble floors and luxury wooden furnishings costing tens of thousands of pounds and Roman-style pillars in the bedrooms.
Pictured: One of the bathrooms onboard the yacht, said to be in the private quarters of Putin’s secret wife Alina Kabaeva
Pictured: A rare glimpse inside what are said to be Putin’s private quarters on the superyacht
It also features a large library, spa and plunge pools and a cocktail bar.
The retrofit, it is understood, added two new balconies and extended the pool. In today’s money, is it believed to be worth around 120 million euros (£102 million).
It is one of no less than three ocean-going yachts allegedly owned by the tyrant who insists on keeping several ships, like some of the other wealthiest Russian oligarchs.
The Graceful is seen as his favourite floating love nest with Alina Kabaeva – believed to be his second wife who he has hidden away in a secret location – behind the even larger Scheherazade which has been seized under Western sanctions.
Both yachts are crewed by the same or other FSO presidential security officers, according to the Navalny’s investigative team, which detailed some of the costs of the furnishings seen in photos of the yacht’s interior.
In Alina’s bedroom is a bed costing 3.3 million rubles [£27,600, $35,165]. This has ‘a mattress costing £6,700 or $8,533, and two bedside tables with £10,900 or $13,835.
Her ocean-going suite has a sofa costing £33,400 or $42,545.
There is a Champagne-coloured carpet worth more than £71,000, or $90,455.
In Russia, the cost of her bedroom furnishings alone would pay for a whole flat for a humble worker.
There are also bookcases traditionally filled with books with beautiful spines.
Putin’s larger quarters come with a sprawling Indian rug worth [£41,800, $53,255], and red velvet bedding. He has a workspace for war-plotting alongside his bed.
The Navalny team stress Putin’s yacht is unaffordable when compared to his official salary of £7,000 a month.
Pictured: A superyacht is seen being built in the Blohm & Voss dock in the harbour in Hamburg, Germany (file photo). The German company has 150 years of experience building and servicing super yachts (and also built Adolf Hitler’s yacht ‘Grille’ in 1934). The company set to work on Graceful – which it also built in 2014 – for at least another year
The dictator is claimed to have two other yachts, one gifted to him by a top oligarch almost two decades ago, the Olympia, and the other – the £550 million ‘floating palace’ Scheherazade – seized by the West.
It is unclear how he could enjoy such opulence with critics blaming endemic corruption under his regime.
Putin’s officials deny he owns these ocean-going vessels.
Graceful has been spotted since it returned to Kaliningrad. According to Forbes, it was seen in October 2022 travelling through the Baltic Sea – escorted by an armed Russian Coast Guard Vessel. It was believed to be en route to St. Petersburg.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.