See inside President Vladimir Putin's opulent $100 million superyacht

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin spent $32 million refitting a superyacht, a new report suggests.
  • The yacht, called Graceful, was renovated while Russian soldiers were fighting in Ukraine.
  • Photos of the vessel were shared by an investigation from dissident Alexei Navalny's team.

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While his troops flooded into Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin was spending millions of dollars on an opulent refit of one of his superyachts, according to an investigation from opposition leader Alexei Navalny's team.

The imprisoned anti-corruption campaigner's team released plans for the yacht called Graceful and said to belong to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that show a helipad, a sauna, an indoor swimming pool that can convert into a dancefloor, and an elaborate dining room with seating for 12 people.

Photos of the lavishly decorated interior also show marble bathrooms, champagne-colored carpets that cost as much as $88,000, and lavish bedrooms containing beds worth around $34,000.

The investigation also shared pictures of an elegant bookcase that it said contained a photo album of Saint Petersburg, a Russian-German dictionary, and a book about former Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, assassinated in Ukraine in 1911.

The total cost of the works came to $32 million, according to the investigation.

"Half of the country is forced to raise money for underwear and socks for mobilized soldiers and to make trench candles, while the person who unleashed this war spends three billion roubles just on repairs and purchases for his yacht," the report says.

The 269-foot yacht, which left Hamburg, Germany , just before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, is worth around $100 million.

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The Navalny team also published an email from January 2022 to the managers of the Blohm & Voss shipyard, which says that the "owner of Graceful is not happy with refit execution."

"They are dissatisfied with delays in construction schedule," it continues, before adding that the "owners wish to remove Graceful on 01 of February to Russian Federation to complete refit."

The message also mentions concerns about potential delays caused by rising COVID-19 cases and asks the shipbuilders to "accelerate all works which may interfere with Graceful sailing out on 01 February."

The ship was finally seen departing Hamburg on February 7 as it made its way to Kaliningrad, Russia.

The vessel has been under investigation by the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control since last year.

"OFAC is identifying Russia-flagged Graceful and Cayman Islands-flagged Olympia, as blocked property in which President Vladimir Putin has an interest," the US Treasury website said in a June 2022 press release.

"While the leader of Russia, Putin has taken numerous trips on these yachts, including a 2021 trip in the Black Sea where he was joined by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the OFAC-designated corrupt ruler of Belarus, who has supported Russia's war against Ukraine," it adds.

The Navalny team also highlighted a phone shown in one of the photographs of an office on the yacht in which a "Prestige-CB" telephone can be seen.

The report says that these phones, which have no buttons and are decorated with the Russian coat of arms, are used for "top secret" state communications and cannot be bought by the general public. It adds that Putin has the same phone in all of his offices.

The Russian president is reportedly also the owner of the 450-foot, $700 million Scheherazade , one of the largest yachts in the world. The superyacht was impounded in an Italian port last year due to its connections to the Russian government.

Putin is also thought to be the owner of a smaller, Cayman Islands-flagged yacht called Olympia, a gift from the billionaire Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich.

Watch: Inside Putin's secret bunker and billion-dollar palace

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Satellite image shows super yacht linked to Putin out of reach of sanctions

By Catherine Herridge , Michael Kaplan, Andrew Bast, Jessica Kegu

March 3, 2022 / 7:30 AM EST / CBS News

As Europe and the U.S. bear down with a raft of aggressive sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, the super yacht he is believed to own has found safe harbor in a highly militarized port in Russian territorial waters. In new satellite imagery obtained by CBS News, the yacht can be seen docked in a port in Kaliningrad, near Russia's nuclear weapons operations. 

Experts say Putin's luxury vessel has become a symbol not only of his vast hidden wealth, but also of how challenging that money has been to find. 

"He's a KGB agent, so he's crafty. He knows how to hide when he needs to," said John Smith, former director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which administers and enforces all foreign sanctions.

Putin's purported yacht "Graceful" docked in Kaliningrad, Russia

Data from MarineTraffic, a global intelligence group, shows Putin's alleged yacht, the Graceful, left Germany two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine . 

Putin's government salary is said to be about $140,000, but that doesn't begin to explain the mansions, million-dollar watch collection and over-the-top yacht. 

"It would be fair to say he's among the richest men in the world," Smith said. 

Though he sells himself as a man of the people, his wealth is estimated to be more than $100 billion. 

Putin's critics allege he also has a cliffside palace that includes an amphitheater and a personal tunnel to the beach that doubles as a security bunker. 

Palace in Gelendzhik, Russia

"Of course, he doesn't acknowledge it as being his own," Smith said. "It doesn't fit with the public persona that he's trying to create to actually acknowledge it." 

Putin relies on his oligarch friends to shield his fortune from sanctions, Smith said. 

"So if he asked them to do something, they do it in terms of hiding assets, squirreling them in different parts of the globe, they will do what he needs," he said. 

Those who have tried to expose Putin's fortune have done so at great personal risk. 

Putin critic Boris Nemtsov was assassinated on a bridge in the shadow of the Kremlin in 2015. Sergei Magnitsky died in 2009 under questionable circumstances in prison after he exposed $230 million in fraud by Putin's friends. Putin publicly condemned Nemtsov's murder and claimed Magnitsky died of a heart attack.  

His most recent No. 1 critic, Alexei Navalny , who helped expose Putin's lavish palace, emerged as a political rival and found himself repeatedly jailed. He nearly died after being poisoned two years ago, though Putin has denied responsibility for the poisoning. 

"Putin's wealth is one of the most dangerous topics," said Russian journalist Roman Badanin, who spent two decades investigating Putin's financial web. 

Badanin said Russian authorities sought to intimidate and silence his reporting team. Six months ago, he reached his breaking point. 

"I fled the country. My apartment was searched twice. I have like three criminal charges against me back in Russia," he said. 

In his State of the Union address, President Biden said the U.S. and its allies are waging economic war on Putin and Russian oligarchs. 

"We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments and your private jets," Biden said. 

On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced the formation of a new task force that would target Russian oligarchs. 

"Russia is not a transparent economy," Smith said. "The U.S. and our allies have decent information on some of [Putin's] assets, I think a lot will remain a mystery for a long time in the future." 

The biggest financial hit for Putin would be sanctions on the energy sector, which Smith says the Russian president has used to build up his wealth for years. So far, Washington and the Europeans have been hesitant to do that. 

  • Vladimir Putin


Catherine Herridge is a senior investigative correspondent for CBS News covering national security and intelligence based in Washington, D.C.

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Navalny group presents evidence Putin owns mysterious $700 million mega-yacht Scheherazade

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Peter Weber, The Week US

France, Italy, and Spain have seized at least eight yachts linked to Russian oligarchs hit with sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Other sanctioned Russians have moved their mega-yachts to the Maldives, Seychelles, Dubai, Turkey, and other areas out of the reach of U.S., British, and European Union oligarch asset hunters .

Graceful, a $140 million yacht believed to be owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin, got a head start , sailing from Germany to the coast of Kaliningrad, Russia, in mid-February, about two weeks before Russia's invasion. But the $700 million, 459-foot superyacht Scheherazade, rumored to be "Putin's yacht," has been docked in an Italian port, Marina di Carrara, since September.

The super-yacht Scheherazade

"In the rarefied world of the biggest superyachts," The New York Times reported earlier in March, "the Scheherazade is alone in that no likely owner has been publicly identified." Even in "the hyper-confidential world of superyachting," the Times adds, "there is an unusual degree of secrecy surrounding this vessel."

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The Scheherazade's British captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, told the Times that while he is not allowed to disclose who owns the ship, it is not Putin. "I have never seen him," he said. "I have never met him." He also said Italian finance investigators had recently boarded the ship looking for certification documents.

Jailed dissident Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation said Monday that aside from Bennett-Pearce, the rest of the Scheherazade's crew is not just Russian, but also work for the FSO, or Federal Protective Service, Russia's equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service. Navalny's team ran through how it linked the crew to the FSO in a Russian-language video and in English on Twitter .

Putin officially earns a $136,000 salary and owns a modest apartment, three Soviet-era cars, and a small camping trailer, Radio Free Europe reports , but Navalny's group and other anti-corruption politicians — some subsequently killed or poisoned — have linked Putin to a vast spread of mansions, jets, yachts, and other luxury assets . "Putin never keeps assets under his own name," though, Navalny investigator Maria Pevchikh tweeted . "So you need to look not at the ownership structure but rather at who manages and pays for it."

"FSO is a militarized state agency responsible for the security and wellbeing of Vladimir Putin personally," Pevchikh wrote . But along with bodyguard duties, "FSO officers are also responsible for all Putin's official residences. ... They are literally running Putin's life." And his yacht, apparently, unless finance police can trace the Scheherazade's ownership back to him.

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Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.  

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Italy impounds $700 million megayacht linked to Putin

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ROME — Italian financial authorities said Friday that they have impounded a $700 million megayacht that has been linked in media reports and by anti-Kremlin groups to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But an element of mystery remains: Italy, in what it called its “ freezing decree ,” did not say who the owner might be.

Italian investigators had raced to investigate the vessel and prevent it from leaving the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara. The yacht, known as the Scheherazade, had been undergoing repairs since before Russia invaded Ukraine. But this week, it returned to the water, according to a New York Times reporter who visited the marina, prompting fears that the vessel might depart and evade sanctions.

The ship, until the measures imposed Friday evening, would have been free to leave.

In announcing its action, Italy’s Finance Ministry said the yacht’s owner had “prominent” links with Russians already under European Union sanctions. The name of the owner was not specified, and Italy said only that its government had asked the E.U. to add the person to its sanctions list.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry described Italy’s move as “provisional.”

Italy “proposed to the Council of the European Union the inclusion of the owner of the boat in the list,” the spokesman said. “Until then, the name cannot be public.”

In March, an investigation by the Italian daily La Stampa named the boat’s owner as Eduard Khudainatov, a former Russian oil executive. But the newspaper also raised a question about how somebody not listed as a billionaire could afford to purchase one of the world’s most luxurious yachts.

So, speculation about the Scheherazade has only intensified. Investigators working for jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny say the yacht’s owner is Putin himself. In March, Navalny’s team published what it said was the crew list of people who had worked on the yacht. They purportedly include members of the Russian state agency responsible for Putin’s personal protection.

“We think that this is a solid enough proof that Scheherazade belongs to Putin himself and must be immediately seized,” said Maria Pevchikh, the head of the Navalny-founded FBK investigation team.

The assets of Russia’s ruling and billionaire class are generally kept in tight secrecy, controlled on paper through opaque offshore companies. That has made it difficult in some cases for European countries to ascertain the real owners of villas, yachts and other luxury items. The Scheherazade is officially owned by an offshore company from the Marshall Islands, Pevchikh said.

Before Friday, Italy had managed to detain a $560 million megayacht connected to Andrey Melnichenko, a coal and fertilizer tycoon who is one of Russia’s 10 richest people. Italy has also blocked access to villas that oligarchs use as summer getaways.

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Alexei Navalny's associates show Putin's superyacht, which avoided arrest and bypassed sanctions

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Alexei Navalny 's associates have shown the luxury of Vladimir Putin 's yacht, Graceful , which was urgently transported from Germany before the invasion of Ukraine and finished already in Russia during the war. They also revealed schemes to circumvent sanctions to decorate the yacht.

Source : investigation by the Russian Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF), published on Alexei Navalny's YouTube channel and website

Details : The Graceful is one of Putin's three big yachts. Like the Olympia and the  Scheherazade , Graceful is not designed for the President of Russia, but it was made for him. According to ACF, the Graceful was made based on Putin's old yacht with the help of large-scale reconstruction, full repair and very expensive equipment.

The Scheherazade was arrested in the port of Marina di Carrara in Italy, and Graceful had been "evacuated" before it came under sanctions.

It was Graceful on 19 January 2022 that the owner ordered to be transported from the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg (Germany), although her repairs there were to last another year, and the superyacht was not ready. The yacht was towed to Kaliningrad.

In June 2023, during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the refurbished Graceful came from Kaliningrad to St. Petersburg.

And just now, a superyacht with a special escort worldwide via the Northern Sea Route is on its way to Sochi, Navalny's team says.

One of the proofs that the Graceful is intended for Putin is that it is staffed by members of the Russian Federal Security Service and sails with a motorcade. In September 2022, it was spotted in Estonian waters on its way from St Petersburg to Kaliningrad, accompanied by a Russian Coast Guard boat under the FSB command; the vessel is known by its codename, Kosatka (Killer Whale).

The yacht's owner's office is equipped with a Prestige-CB, a special communication phone, which cannot be just bought: it can be used by the authorities to work with information classified as "top secret".

Navalny's associates obtained a deck plan of the yacht Graceful and an estimate for repair works.

Upstairs, on the open deck, there is a helipad, a lounge with a round table that seats 12 people, a dining elevator, a large bathtub and two contrasting fonts typical for Putin's residences.

On the deck, where the captain's deck is located, there is a lounge area with a grand piano, three sofas and a TV.

The owner's deck features a transformable swimming pool that can be transformed into a dance floor or movie theatre. The same design is on the Scheherazade. On the same deck, there is a dining room with a table for 12 people and a fireplace. There is also an owner's area with two huge cabins. There are men's and women's cabins. In the master's bedroom, there is a huge bed framed by columns. In the room next to the bedroom, there's a cabin office with a special telephone and a model of the Scheherazade.

The office of the owner of the yacht "Graceful" with the special communication phone "Prestige-CB" and the model of the yacht "Scheherazade"

From the cabins of the master and mistress, you can go down the stairs to the gym. American Hoist leg exercisers were purchased for Graceful.

Cabins for guests and crew are located on the same deck. Several jet skis and two boats are also there.

The renovation included repainting the hull, replacing the helipads and decks, installing deckchairs and sun umbrellas, repairing furniture, polishing marble, modifying the sound zone of the sauna, working on the elevators, swimming pool and jacuzzi, equipping a new cabin for the owner.

The total budget of the yacht, with all repairs and entertainment for 2022 alone, amounted to 32 million dollars, or almost 3 billion roubles at the current exchange rate. Wooden products cost 240 million roubles, sofa – 4 million roubles, carpets – 6 million, coffee table – almost 8 million, installation of two deck fireplaces – 10 million, and a pool connected to the yacht – 208 million roubles.

Expensive dishes, a comb for 11,000 roubles (almost the size of an average living wage in the Russian Federation), backgammon for half a million roubles and three armoured umbrellas for 1.2 million each were bought for the Graceful.

The Graceful was subject to American sanctions a few months after the start of the war, but for the sake of its repair, a complex system was built, a whole infrastructure of assistants in Europe, Türkiye and Dubai, who help circumvent American sanctions daily.

Back in September 2021, the MTU system with displays, which allows you to adjust engine parameters, broke.

Estonian company Briz Marine agreed not only to buy and bring to Russia displays for Putin's yacht but also to help with their reprogramming. An Estonian intermediary picked up the equipment in St. Petersburg, found a courier who took everything to a factory in Germany, and in the spring of 2023, the repaired equipment was returned to Russia.

Italian suppliers continued business relations with the head of the Graceful, despite the sanctions. The invoice for the form was prepared, omitting all compromising details. The invoice was processed several times: first, it was issued to a Russian company that manages the yacht, then to an Estonian company, and in the end, the form was paid by a company from Dubai. After payment from Italy, the goods were sent to Lithuania to be delivered from there to Kaliningrad, directly to the yacht.

They also carried umbrellas for yachts on the route Türkiye – Lithuania – Kaliningrad.

The Estonian firm that helps buy clothes to circumvent sanctions is headed by the same person who helped with the displays for the yacht. And after the invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine, the company's affairs went uphill.

ACF intends to file a complaint against each of these firms involved in serving Putin to circumvent sanctions.

Navalny emphasises that already during the war, 3 billion roubles (US$31.8 million) were spent on "Putin's toy", of which two billion (US$21.4 million) were spent on repairs and another billion on maintenance (crew salaries, overheads, communication, storage in dry dock, fuel, representative expenses). And the money will continue to be spent.

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How can a $700 million superyacht sitting in an Italian port ‘belong to no one’? Russian sleuths say it’s Putin’s

In the legend of Tales From the Thousand and One Nights , Scheherazade is a beautiful virgin who escapes being murdered by the king by telling him stories at night.

Scheherazade is also President Vladimir Putin’s $700 million superyacht, according to Russian investigative journalists—and its ability to survive being seized by Western governments will require far more cunning than storytelling.

The yacht, currently moored in the Marina di Carrara on Italy’s Tuscany coast, is gargantuan, even by the outsize dimensions of Russian oligarchs’ superyachts. At about 459 feet long , it has six levels of decks, two helipads with a hidden helicopter hangar, a spa, huge living room and dining room, a swimming pool and three saunas, as well as an upper-level “owner’s area” that includes its own private spa.

“Belongs to no one”

For weeks, there have been questions about who owns the superyacht, which is registered in the Cayman Islands through a shell company. But on Monday, the group headed by jailed Russian activist Alexis Navalny claimed in a YouTube video that the vessel belongs to Putin himself.

“On paper, it belongs to no one, and sits quietly in an Italian port,” the video says in Russian. “Watch the video, and you will find out how Putin owns this yacht through figureheads, and how we can take this yacht away from him.”

The group obtained the all-Russian crew list for the yacht, and found that almost all of them were employed by Putin’s security detail, the Federal Protective Service, known by its Russian acronym FSO.

Earlier this month, the Scheherazade’ s British captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, told the New York Times he was under “a watertight nondisclosure agreement” about who the superyacht’s true owners were, but claimed he had never seen Putin on board.

But Navalny’s group says the crew’s employment status suggests that the Russian leader owns the vessel. If that hunch is correct, it would be subject to immediate seizure under U.S., U.K., and European Union sanctions.

Superyachts have been one of the most visible signs of Russian oligarchs’ mammoth wealth—and, recently, one of the most often seized. French police seized a $120 million vessel allegedly owned by Igor Sechin, head of the Russian oil giant Rosneft, on the Mediterranean coast earlier this month . Spanish officials impounded  two more yachts, including the Crescent , a 443-foot superyacht also thought to belong to Sechin.

Another boat, owned by former KGB agent Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, was stranded in Norway when no one would sell it fuel. And on Monday, the 460-foot superyacht Solaris , owned by the sanctioned billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, was spotted parked in the harbor of Bodrum, Turkey; that country has not implemented sanctions.

Putin’s $200 billion

Western governments face a daunting task in tracking down Putin’s true wealth, which could amount to some $200 billion, according to financier Bill Browder, who told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017 that Putin’s inner circle of oligarchs split their billions 50-50 with the Russian president. The assets include a $1.3 billion mansion on the Black Sea, funded through a Russian health project in which Putin allies were vastly overpaid for medical supplies.

The Scheherazade , in fact, might not be Putin’s only superyacht. Last month, the vessel Graceful made a hurried departure from its berth in Hamburg as the EU was drafting tough new sanctions just days before Putin sent Russian tanks into Ukraine. Believed to be linked to Putin, that superyacht is thought to be worth $100 million .  

But untangling ownership details, and pinpointing them to Putin, will be immensely complicated.

In that, Navalny’s team has joined forces with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, or OCCRP, a Sarajevo-based group of investigative journalists, to create a database of oligarch wealth. It publishes its “ Russian Asset Tracker” in Russian , English, and Spanish.

The journalists say they are focusing on “a new generation of wealthy men obedient to Putin”—many of whom are now under Western sanctions and whose funds Western governments believe are crucial to funding the Ukraine war. The database lists mansions, superyachts, private planes, and other property, so far totaling about $17.5 billion. The group is sure that will grow, and invites people to send details of “anything we’ve missed.”

“Figuring out who owns what, and how much of it, is a tall order even for experienced police investigators,” the journalists say. “We decided to follow the trail.”

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The multi-million-dollar mega yacht Scheherazade, docked at the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara.

‘Mysterious’: the $700m superyacht in Italy some say belongs to Putin

Activists linked to Alexei Navalny believe the Scheherazade is owned by the Russian president

F or several months, the mysterious 140-metre-long, six-floor superyacht has towered over the smaller boats in the shipyard in Marina di Carrara, a town on Italy’s Tuscan coast, arousing chatter among its people over the identity of its wealthy owner.

“It’s the largest yacht I’ve ever seen here,” said Suzy Dimitrova, who owns a boat in the marina. “There are people cleaning it all the time. The last time I saw it leave [the shipyard] was last year. We’re all wondering who the owner is.”

The Scheherazade, said to be worth $700m (£528m), is under investigation by Italian authorities for potential links to sanctioned Russians. And activists working with the jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are in no doubt that the yacht is owned by the Russian president Vladimir Putin .

On Monday, investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh and anti-corruption activist Georgy Alburov said that all crew members, obtained from a list dating December 2020, were Russian, apart from the captain. In a video published on YouTube, they claimed that some of the yacht’s staff worked for the Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO), an agency that manages security for high-ranking officials including Putin.

The activists, who have urged Italian authorities to seize the yacht, said this information proves it belongs to Putin. “They are Russian state employees, military personnel, and they regularly travel to Italy as a group to work on the mysterious yacht,” Pevchikh wrote on Twitter.

The interior of the vessel was described as being equipped with a spa, swimming pools, two helipads, a wood-burning fireplace and a pool table designed to tilt so as to reduce the impact of the waves.

In an address to the Italian parliament on Tuesday, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Italy to seize the yacht, adding that Putin and his wealthy supporters often holidayed in Italy and should have their assets blocked.

“Don’t be a resort for murderers,” he said. “Lock all their real estate, accounts and yachts – from the Scheherazade to the smallest ones.”

Putin’s last official visit to Italy was in 2019, at the invitation of the former prime minister, Giuseppe Conte. He also held talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican during the visit.

Marina di Carrara is close to Forte dei Marmi, a favourite holiday destination for Russian oligarchs, many of whom have bought villas and beach resorts.

In early March, Italian police seized a yacht owned by Alexei Mordashov, the richest man in Russia before being blacklisted by the European Union, and another owned by Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire with close ties to Putin , in the Ligurian port of Imperia.

Italian authorities seize one of world’s largest superyachts from oligarch – video

The yacht can only be seen through a fence, where it is continuing to undergo a refit, scheduled to be completed next year, in a shipyard owned by The Italian Sea Group, a company that refits and builds luxury yachts.

The mystery over its owner gathered momentum in early March, when finance police in Carrara boarded the yacht as EU sanctions against Russian oligarchs kicked in over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .

The police seized ownership documents from the yacht’s British captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce. At the time, US officials told the New York Times that they were also investigating whether the yacht belonged to Putin.

The Italian Sea Group said in a statement that it was continuing to work on the ship’s €6m (£5m) refit and maintenance despite the EU’s sanctions and that, according to documents in its possession, the vessel “is not attributable to the property of the Russian president Vladimir Putin”, and neither is it owned by a Russian on the sanction list.

A source at the finance police unit in Carrara said that they are now aware who the owner is and will soon make an announcement.

An investigation by La Stampa newspaper earlier this month had linked the vessel to Eduard Yurievich Khudainatov, the former president of the Russian state oil firm Rosneft, via a shell company registered in the Marshall Islands.

But Italian police are reportedly certain that Khudainatov is not the yacht’s real owner. “He seems to be a man connected with Putin’s inner circle but not so rich as to own a yacht like the Scheherazade,” said Jacopo Iacoboni, the journalist for La Stampa who carried out the investigation.

Until the Italian police reveal their findings, the people of Marina di Carrara continue to ponder, even if its presence causes concern. “Putin is the presumed owner, and looking at it now causes me a lot of anxiety because of what he is doing in Ukraine,” said Maria Cristina.

However, there are no signs of protests being planned. “There are always a lot of words, but little action here,” said Dimitrova.

  • Vladimir Putin

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The Man Putin Fears

Russia Navalny

O n a cold morning in November, the family of Alexei Navalny , the Russian opposition leader, made the trip out to visit him at Penal Colony No. 2. The drive from Moscow took about two hours, though parts of it felt like ​traveling back in time. Coming off the highway from Russia’s high-tech capital, the roads became rutted. Apartment blocks gave way to wooden huts, and old ladies appeared near the roadside in heavy coats, selling vegetables from their gardens.

At the prison gates, Navalny’s wife and parents carried a few bags of groceries into a waiting room, where an ancient telephone allowed them to announce their visit to the guards. Before long, the inmate was led out to meet them. He looked skinny, his head shorn, a broad smile framed by a prison-issue hat. Ten months had passed since Navalny’s incarceration, and more than a year since he was nearly poisoned to death with a chemical weapon. Its effects on his nervous system no longer showed; his hands had stopped trembling. “He looked good,” his wife Yulia Navalnaya later told me. “Unchanged.”

It had been Navalny’s decision to be there. Not in this specific prison, with its silent guards and its windows papered over to create the feeling, Navalny says, of living inside a shoebox. But he did make a choice to return to Russia, fully aware of what the state would likely do to him. From his temporary exile, he decided almost exactly a year ago to submit to the custody of the regime that stood accused of trying to murder him. The poison had failed to kill Navalny. It hadn’t even really changed him.

navalny putin yacht

From the confines of his barracks, he still runs a network of dissidents devoted to ousting President Vladimir Putin . Its top leaders are fugitives from Russian law, though they were not hard for me to find while reporting this story. Some met me while they were fundraising in New York City or lobbying in Washington. Others showed me the TV studio they built in Eastern Europe, just outside Russia’s border, to air broadcasts for millions of followers inside.

Through them, I began to receive a series of handwritten letters from Penal Colony No. 2. “Please, not too many questions,” Navalny told me in the first one last October. “There’s no time for writing here, and the process of getting these pages out is exhausting.” You wouldn’t know it from the volume of his subsequent answers, about two dozen line-ruled pages covered in a hurried Russian script. The first one came punctuated with a smiley face, as though the dissident were still adding emojis to the blog that started his political career.

Our exchange, which lasted through the middle of January, coincided with a tense time in Europe. Not long after Navalny’s family visited him, Putin began massing troops near Russia’s western border, enough to launch an invasion of Ukraine . The Biden Administration tried to talk the Russians down , resulting in a standoff drenched in Cold War revivalism. Envoys of the world’s two nuclear superpowers spent weeks trading threats and demands. The spectacle made Navalny cringe. “Time and again the West falls into Putin’s elementary traps,” he wrote me, in a letter that arrived Jan. 14. “It just takes my breath away, watching how Putin pulls this on the American establishment again and again.”

In its talks with Putin, the U.S. strategy has been to offer Russia a “diplomatic offramp,” while also making clear that an invasion of Ukraine would be met with “severe and overwhelming costs,” a spokesman for the National Security Council told me in response to Navalny’s criticism, adding that the U.S. considers his imprisonment “to be politically motivated and a gross injustice.”

Few people have studied Putin as long or as obsessively as Navalny. In his letters, he tries to explain what motivates the Russian President, and what Putin fears. It is not what he claims to be concerned about: the deployment of U.S. forces in Eastern Europe, or the chance that Ukraine might one day join the NATO alliance. “Instead of ignoring this nonsense,” Navalny writes, “the U.S. accepts Putin’s agenda and runs to organize some meetings. Just like a frightened schoolboy who’s been bullied by an upperclassman.”

Riot police officers clash with demonstrators during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times)

What Putin truly fears is what Navalny’s movement seeks—a change of power in Russia, followed by cashiering its corrupt clan of oligarchs and spies. It isn’t NATO that keeps Putin up at night; it’s the space for democratic dissent that NATO opens up along his border. This fear, Navalny argues, is what drives all the conflicts Russia wages with the West. “To consolidate the country and the elites,” he writes, “Putin constantly needs all these extreme measures, all these wars—real ones, virtual ones, hybrid ones or just confrontations at the edge of war, as we’re seeing now.”

Rather than convening talks or offering concessions, Navalny wants the U.S. to pressure the Kremlin from without while Navalny and his supporters pressure it from within. The combination, he believes, will split the elites around Putin, ushering in what Navalny’s followers like to call “the beautiful Russia of the future,” one that is free, democratic, at peace with its neighbors and the West.

But that slogan elides the ugliness of how dictatorships often fall. Russians need not look far for examples. In early January, protests swept through neighboring Kazakhstan , an oil-rich autocracy to Russia’s south. Government buildings were set ablaze. Scores of police and protesters were killed. Kazakhstan’s President issued a shoot-to-kill order to his security forces and called for assistance from Russia and its allies. Within hours, Putin dispatched thousands of troops to help put down the uprising. The crackdown worked. The protests subsided.

In our exchange of letters, I asked Navalny about the prospect of such violence in Russia, and whether he sees it as the price of change after 21 years under the rule of one man. “Our path,” he wrote, “was never strewn with roses.”

Navalny was born and raised in garrison towns, moving from one to another with his father, a Soviet officer who did not have much faith in the system he served. That system fell apart when Navalny was a teenager. After studying law, he got his first taste of politics as a member of the Yabloko party, a group of milquetoast liberals that his mother, an economist, supported. “We lived well,” she once told a Russian magazine about Navalny’s youth. “That is, we were poor. Like everybody else.”

I first met Navalny in Moscow 12 years ago. Tall and stooped, with a slight paunch and ice blue eyes, he stood out as the only dissident organized and popular enough to pose even a distant threat to Putin’s rule. His headquarters back then were a cheaply furnished office in Moscow with low ceilings and a heavy metal door. Hunched over laptops in its dim rooms sat the staff of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Navalny’s activist group. He founded it in 2011 to exploit the main weakness he saw in Putin’s system: the insatiable greed of its courtiers.

On social media, the foundation became famous for exposing the garish wealth of these elites. Its reports were often based on forensic accounting and bank records. Some used drone footage of Italian villas owned by Putin’s underlings. Others plucked evidence from photos that these officials or their relatives posted online, flaunting a yacht or luxury watches. One technocrat had a habit of flying his pet corgis to dog shows on a private jet. In his videos, Navalny delivered these findings in an irreverent style, like a wisecracking detective for the YouTube generation.

In late 2011, when a massive wave of street protests broke out to call for fair elections , Navalny was well-positioned to lead them. His blog had a massive following, and he had earned a reputation for incendiary speeches in the streets. “I’ll chew through the throats of those animals,” he told one crowd in Moscow that winter, gesturing at what he called the “crooks and thieves” in the Kremlin.

His rhetoric turned many people off. Russian liberals were alarmed by Navalny’s early flirtation with the far right, including a pair of videos he released in 2007, one calling for the deportation of migrants, another comparing Islamist militants to cockroaches. The Yabloko party expelled him for such talk and other “nationalist activities.” Putin’s allies cast him as a right-wing radical, even a fascist.

In the early years of Navalny’s career, we spent hours discussing his views, issue by issue. On balance, his agenda struck me as center-right: he supported gun rights, strong borders, less government spending—nothing more radical than a typical Republican in Texas, or a Christian Democrat in Bavaria. But Navalny’s politics were not driven by ideology. Above all, he wanted democratic change.

The state took notice. It first tried to put Navalny in a cell in 2012, when prosecutors charged him with embezzling timber . Navalny called the case “strange and absurd,” but it gave police a pretext for searching his apartment, his office, even the workshop outside Moscow where his parents made wicker baskets. Soon after one of these raids, Navalny invited me to his office. The foundation’s staff had swept the place for bugs and found a camera hidden in the wall, pointed through a pinhole at Navalny’s desk. He shrugged as he showed it to me. “This is a war,” he said. “I also want to take away everything these guys have. So why be surprised that they want to take everything from me?”

A few months later, prosecutors filed new charges, accusing Navalny and his brother Oleg of stealing from two companies. Both men were sentenced to three and a half years in a case that the European Court of Human Rights would later describe as “arbitrary and unfair.” Oleg served much of that term in solitary confinement, becoming what his brother called a hostage of the Russian state. Alexei Navalny got off easier; the court suspended his sentence. As one Kremlin-aligned newspaper noted, putting Navalny behind bars “could turn him into Russia’s version of Nelson Mandela.” Yet setting him free brought risks too. When Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013, the official tally gave him nearly 30% of the vote.

A few months later, the revolution in Ukraine reminded Putin just how quickly a regime can fall. Then President Viktor Yanukovych, his ally in Kyiv, barely held out for two months before fleeing the country in a helicopter, unable to quell a wave of demonstrations against rampant corruption. Putin responded by sending troops to occupy Crimea and start a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. At home, he continued building defenses against a similar revolt. Roughly 400,000 troops were hired into a new police force, a praetorian guard trained to put down popular unrest. Its commander, a longtime Putin bodyguard, later issued a personal warning to Navalny, announcing in a video message that he would pound the dissident “into a juicy slab of meat.”

Navalny was not deterred. In 2016, he announced plans to run for President . Authorities kept him off the ballot. But his campaign still set up offices nationwide. Its activists then ran in local elections, exposed corruption among the regional elites and spread the promise of a democratic Russia. Navalny spent much of his time visiting his regional offices around the country, often drawing massive crowds.

It was during one trip to the provinces that he fell violently ill. In August 2020, Navalny went to Siberia to shoot a video about corruption. On the flight home to Moscow, he turned to his press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, and said he felt strange, unable to focus. Within minutes, he was sprawled on the floor of the plane, groaning in agony and barely conscious. The pilot made an emergency landing in Omsk, where Navalny was rushed to a hospital. It took two days of public pressure before Putin allowed German doctors to evacuate Navalny to Germany. Blood tests there confirmed the cause of his illness: he had been poisoned with Novichok, a chemical weapon first synthesized by Soviet scientists and banned under international law.

Experts suspected the poison had been smeared on Navalny’s clothes, passing through his skin into the bloodstream. When Putin was asked about the crime at a press conference, he made a joke of it. “Who needs him?” the President said of Navalny with a laugh. If Russia had wanted to poison him, Putin added, “we would probably have finished the job.”

When he came out of a coma, Navalny had trouble recognizing his wife and children. The poison had attacked his nervous system, affecting his memory and motor functions. His wife later told me about the delirium and hallucinations that caused him to rip the IV tubes from his veins, spraying the bedsheets with blood. Weeks passed before he relearned how to use a spoon, to write, to walk and to wash himself.

Several months after the poisoning, Navalny felt well enough to resume his activism. His team gathered in Germany to investigate the attack. Using leaked phone and travel records, they worked with several news organizations and with Bellingcat, a London-based investigative outlet, to identify the assailants, mostly Russian security officers. Navalny himself called one of them , pretending to be a senior Kremlin official, and demanded to know why the attack had failed to kill its target. The would-be assassin, apparently believing he was on the phone with his superior, discussed the crime in detail, explaining that agents had sneaked into Navalny’s hotel room in Siberia and smeared the toxin on his underwear.

Russian authorities had warned Navalny that he would be arrested upon his return to Russia, because he had failed to check in with his parole officer while he was in Germany. Yet on Jan. 17, 2021, he and his wife flew back to Moscow. Navalny insists the choice was easy. “There were no discussions with my friends, no emotional talks with my wife,” he wrote me. “From the moment I opened my eyes, I knew I had to return.”

At passport control in Moscow, several officers approached Navalny and led him away from his wife. His allies had clear instructions of what to do next. Within two days of his arrest, they released a second investigation their team had prepared while in Germany. It took aim directly at Putin, linking him to a secret palace on the Black Sea coast. Navalny’s team had used a drone to film the property, which features an underground ice rink, two helipads, an arboretum, an amphitheater and a casino. The film racked up 100 million views on YouTube in a matter of days. Putin denied owning the mansion; his childhood friend from St. Petersburg, now a billionaire, claimed it belongs to him. Still, the film inspired tens of thousands of Russians to protest in the streets, chanting, “Putin is a thief!” as they marched through Moscow. Anti-corruption rallies broke out in more than 100 cities and towns across Russia that weekend.

The Kremlin’s response was fierce. Thousands of protesters were arrested, and dozens of independent journalists and news outlets were later put on a state blacklist of “foreign agents.” Anyone associated with Navalny, including his lawyers, found themselves in legal jeopardy. The elderly father of one of his allies was sent to jail above the Arctic Circle. One spring morning in 2021, a military counterintelligence unit raided the home and office of Ivan Pavlov, a member of Navalny’s legal team, seizing case files and electronics. “Everything linked to Navalny is now irradiated with risk,” Pavlov told me by phone from Tbilisi, Georgia, where he fled with his family. “We’re talking about Putin’s public enemy No. 1.”

Last June, a court in Moscow designated Navalny’s foundation an extremist group. Under Russian law, the ruling made it a crime to work with or support the organization, a legal status similar to that of ISIS or al-Qaeda. The foundation’s regional branches shut down. Security forces pursued its staff, charging some with extremism. Many others fled Russia for fear of arrest.

Alexey Navalny office headquarters in Vilnius, Lithuania on  Jan. 12, 2022.

Soon after, Navalny was summoned to the warden’s office at Penal Colony No. 2. Inside he found a group of officials seated at a conference table. A portrait of a youthful Putin hung on the wall behind them. In a robotic patter, a guard read a proposal to change Navalny’s status at the prison. He would no longer be treated as an inmate prone to attempting escape. Instead he would be deemed an extremist, aggressive and liable to indoctrinate his peers. The change was approved by unanimous vote.

Since then, a little plastic tile, resembling a cheap Christmas ornament, has been affixed to the foot of Navalny’s bed with tape. It’s inscribed with the words prone to crimes of a terrorist nature, a label that infuriates Navalny. Putin is the one “who ordered an act of terrorism—to kill a political opponent,” he writes in his letters. “But it’s my bed that has the label terrorist.”

Last August, on the first anniversary of the poisoning, the U.S. sanctioned a group of Russian security officers for trying to kill Navalny with a chemical weapon. Most of those identified in Navalny’s investigation were on the list. Yet he was disappointed in the American response. “These are just the agents of Putin’s will,” he wrote me. “We’re all tired of rolling our eyes, watching the U.S. impose sanctions on some colonels and generals, who don’t even have any money abroad.” It would be far more effective, he says, to go after Putin’s own fortune and the bagmen who keep it for him in Western banks. “It’s really simple,” Navalny writes. “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. The proposal has bipartisan support in Congress, where the blacklist was dubbed the Navalny 35. Its most vocal advocate has been U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat and former diplomat in the Obama Administration. Navalny’s “central insight,” Malinowski told me, “is that corruption is both the Putin regime’s reason for being and its greatest political vulnerability.”

Lithuania, Vilnius 12.01.2022 Alexey Navalny office headquarters.

The Biden Administration has been vocal in condemning the Kremlin’s attacks against Navalny and his movement. But it has avoided expressing support for his dream of political change in Russia, and it has not imposed the sanctions he proposes. One Kremlin insider, who is close to some of the people on Navalny’s blacklist, told me that going after them would be ineffective, because none of the targets could change Putin’s mind about Navalny, NATO or Ukraine. “Can you even imagine such a conversation? ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich, maybe we should ease up. We’ve got a lot of money on the line.’ Nobody would come to him with something like that,” says the source. “You’d have to be an idiot.” But the aim of the sanctions, Navalny told me, would not be to convince Russian billionaires to reason with Putin. It is to pressure them to turn against him.

In pursuing that goal, Navalny had long been careful to avoid foreign sponsors, not wanting to be perceived inside Russia as an agent of the West. That policy became moot once the state designated his organization a “foreign agent” last year. “It untied our hands,” says Leonid Volkov, a longtime ally of Navalny, who now helps run the movement from exile.

The group now openly calls for political backing from foreign governments and solicits money from private donors. When we met over dinner in November, Volkov was in Washington to speak before Congress on Navalny’s behalf and drum up support. A few days later, he held the movement’s first official fundraiser in New York City, inviting wealthy Russian expats to back their cause. Hundreds showed up, snapping selfies with Navalny’s surrogates like they were celebrities.

The resulting windfall from such donors has helped pay for their new bases of operation in Eastern Europe. When I visited in January, their office in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, looked more like a media startup than a revolutionary lair, though freshly exiled activists are welcome to use its shower and rest on the beanbags that lean against the walls. Technicians were busy setting up a new TV studio, where Navalny’s allies film video investigations that are broadcast into Russia, routinely finding an audience of millions. In the kitchenette, a poster shows a red X over two surveillance cameras, alongside a caption: They can’t see everything.

The nation of Lithuania, a member of NATO and the E.U., has been happy to host the exiles, including numerous fugitives from Russia and at least two designated by Putin’s regime as “terrorists.” The Lithuanians have dismissed Moscow’s demands to arrest members of the group. “Our history obliges us to welcome such people,” Vytautas Landsbergis, the founding father of modern Lithuania, told me recently in his Vilnius apartment. “The question for us is whether they can liberate Russia from Putin the way we liberated ourselves from the KGB.”

In the spring of 1990, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence from Moscow. Landsbergis signed that declaration, then faced down the Soviet tanks sent to crush the rebellion the following year. More than a dozen demonstrators wound up dead before the Kremlin backed off and let the country break away. Landsbergis, 89, retired long ago. His grandson Gabrielius Landsbergis is now the nation’s Foreign Minister. Between talks with NATO allies in January, he told me Lithuania is honored to offer a “safe space” for Navalny’s organization to envision a Russia beyond Putin.

Lithuania, Vilnius 12.01.2022 Alexey Navalny office headquarters.

That Russia could be many years away. Under Russian law, Putin can stay in power at least until 2036, thanks to a constitutional amendment enacted last year. But if the West wants political change in Russia, Navalny writes, “We do not by any means have to wait for Putin’s physical death.” State repression could spark an uprising. Sanctions could instigate a palace coup. At times his letters seem almost impatient for Putin’s Russia to degrade into an absolute dictatorship, because that would raise the risk of regime collapse, Navalny writes, “when the pendulum swings in the other direction.”

There is no telling when that could happen, or how much blood would be spilled in the process. Yet here was Russia’s most famous dissident, once poisoned and now imprisoned, daring the state to do its worst. The paradox helps explain why Navalny decided to return. In exile he would be just another gadfly, too easy for Putin to ignore. In prison he is a reminder of what Russia has become, and a symbol of the freedoms that it lost.

Near the end of our correspondence, I asked Navalny about his regrets. Isn’t Putin better off with him in prison and his movement in exile? “He made things worse for himself,” Navalny replied. “It’s clear that this was a personal, emotional decision on Putin’s part. First I didn’t die from the poison. Then I didn’t turn into a vegetable as the doctors had feared. Then I had the gall not only to return but, once in Russia, to release an investigation about Putin’s own corruption.”

If Russia has changed, Navalny has not. His statements still crackle with the same irreverent humor. His foundation remains determined to embarrass the Kremlin and investigate its secrets. “He’s the same,” his wife told me after visiting him in prison last November. “What he’s been through in the last year, it would be enough to break a normal person. But not him. He’s not giving up. Not for a second.”

— With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Simmone Shah/New York; and Nik Popli/Washington

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Watch: Alexei Navalny’s family and mourners arrive for Putin critic’s funeral in Moscow

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Watch again as the family of Alexei Navalny joins mourners for the Vladimir Putin critic’s funeral in Moscow today (Friday 1 March).

Navalny will be buried in Moscow on Friday. The service will be held at Borisovskoye Cemetery, after a farewell service at a Moscow church .

The opposition leader's wife Yulia Navalnaya said she didn't know if the funeral would be peaceful or if police would arrest those who came to say goodbye.

A heavy police presence was reported at both funeral locations on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said the team was struggling to find somewhere to hold the ceremony.

Ms Yarmysh said some funeral homes had claimed they were fully booked, while others had refused when they found out who the event was for.

Alexei Navalny died suddenly in an Arctic prison last month.

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Jailed Navalny Ally Chanysheva Asks Putin for Pardon – Reports

T he jailed former regional coordinator of Alexei Navalny’s political network in Russia’s republic of Bashkortostan has asked President Vladimir Putin to pardon her, state-funded media reported Monday.

Lilia Chanysheva, 42, was the first of Navalny’s associates to be arrested on “extremism” charges in November 2021. Last month, a court in the city of Ufa sentenced her to nine-and-a-half years in prison on those charges.

The state-funded RT network on Monday published a letter, claimed to have been written by the jailed activist, where she asks Putin to be pardoned.

In the letter, Chanysheva was said to have written that she “voluntarily stopped participating in and leading” the Ufa branch of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2021 and then ceased her political activism to devote time to her family.

The letter continues by saying that Chanysheva has elderly parents who are sick.

Chanysheva’s lawyer, Ramil Gizatullin, told the independent news outlet 7x7 that, while he had not personally seen the letter shared by RT, he also did not believe it was fake.

Gizatullin added that Chanysheva previously discussed with him the idea of writing a pardon request. He said that the handwriting in the letter published by RT appeared to belong to his client.

Chanysheva headed Navalny’s political office in Bashkortostan’s capital of Ufa until it was forced to dissolve in 2021, when the authorities blacklisted his activist network as “extremist.”

Jailed Navalny Ally Chanysheva Asks Putin for Pardon – Reports

Soldiers stand outside in the snow. Tanks and other military equipment are in the background.

Putin Is Selling Victory, and Many Russians Are Buying It

Vladimir Putin’s message to his country appears to be taking hold: that Russia is fighting against the whole Western world — and winning.

Military cadets at an exhibition of equipment captured from NATO countries in front of the Victory Museum in Moscow. Credit...

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By Valerie Hopkins

Photographs by Nanna Heitmann

Reporting from Moscow

  • May 15, 2024

The word “victory” is everywhere in Moscow these days.

It is being projected from gargantuan LED screens alongside major intersections and highways and written on red flags whipping in the wind. It’s prominent at an exhibit of Western weapons destroyed on Ukrainian battlefields and lugged back to Moscow as war trophies on display in — where else? — Victory Park.

Victory is precisely the message that President Vladimir V. Putin, 71, has sought to project as he has been feted with pomp and pageantry after another electoral success, while his army sweeps through Ukrainian villages in a stunning new offensive in the northeast.

“Together, we will be victorious!” Mr. Putin said at his inauguration last week after securing a fifth term as president. Two days later, the country celebrated Victory Day, Russia’s most important public holiday, which commemorates the Soviet contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Honor guard members walk down a red carpet in the center of a large hallway as people look on from either side.

During the first year of the invasion, many Russians were shocked and ashamed by the war; hundreds of thousands left the country. During the second year, they were concerned about a potential second wave of mobilization.

But with the war now in its third year, many Russians seem to have learned to accept it, interviews over the last week and recent polling show. And “victory” is an easy sell in Mr. Putin’s Russia.

Western sanctions have inflicted few economic hardships. The military news from Ukraine is increasingly positive. Yes, soldiers are still returning in coffins, but mostly to families in the hinterlands , not among the Moscow elite. And for many, the deaths only reinforce the idea, pushed by state news media and driven home relentlessly by Mr. Putin, that Russia is facing an existential threat from the West.

“We can feel that victory is near,” said Andrei, 43, who said he traveled to Moscow for the May 9 holiday celebrations from the Chita region, almost 3,000 miles from the capital.

Like others interviewed for this story, he declined to provide his last name, indicating apparent mistrust of Western news media.

He was among those who braved the cold and even snow to visit the collection of recently captured Western military equipment. (Ukraine also displays destroyed Russian tanks in the center of Kyiv). But the brash exhibit in Moscow, with flags on the equipment showing which countries donated them to Ukraine, fits Russia’s narrative that it is fighting against the whole developed world — and winning.

“When you see all this, and all these flags, it is clear that the whole world is supplying weapons and you know that a world war is going on,” Andrei said. “It’s Russia against the whole world, as usual.”

Ivan, another visitor to Victory Park, waited his turn to pose in front of the rusted and charred hulk of the German Leopard tank, flashing a smile and giving a thumbs up as his friend photographed him. People jostled for a spot beside a similarly destroyed American-made M1 Abrams tank.

“There has been so much talk about these Abrams, about these Leopards, and what is the result?” said Ivan, 26.

“They are all standing here, we are looking at them, we see what condition they are in. This is great!” He smiled.

The bravado exhibited by Russians like Andrei and Ivan this month mirrors the confident posture of Mr. Putin as he steers Russia past economic challenges and to greater battlefield advantage in Ukraine.

His inauguration included a church service in which he was blessed by the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, who expressed hope that the president would remain in power until “the end of the century.”

According to the Levada Center, an independent polling institution, about 75 percent of Russians profess support for their army’s actions in Ukraine. (About a quarter of the population is against the war, the poll and other research shows, but protests are effectively banned, and repression is so intense that many people are afraid to acknowledge or share antiwar or anti-government content online).

Thousands who fled Russia have returned. Their lives have adapted to the new normal, and have actually changed less than those in the West might expect.

“It’s what, the 13th package of sanctions they’re making?” Ivan said, laughing. “So far, we don’t feel anything.”

Robots built by Yandex, Russia’s homegrown version of Google, can be seen traversing Moscow’s sidewalks making deliveries. Inflation is under control, at least for now. According to a report last month by Forbes, the number of billionaires in Moscow — measured in U.S. dollars — increased so much that the city moved up four spots in the global rankings, behind only New York City.

“Most of the brands that allegedly left Russia have not gone anywhere,” said Andrei, adding that he and his daughter planned to have lunch at a rebranded K.F.C. What had changed, he said, was that “the consolidation of society has taken place” over the rationale for the war, as well as the conservative social values Mr. Putin is pushing.

Mr. Putin and others trumpeted that apparent cohesion when the official results of his preordained election victory in March were announced, with a record 88 percent of the vote going to the incumbent, a figure that Western democracies decried as a sham.

“Russia is such a complicated, multiethnic country that to understand it and govern it, you need more than one term,” said Oleg V. Panchurin, 32, a veteran of the war in Ukraine.

“If it’s going to be President Putin, then I would be happy if he served 10 terms,” said Mr. Panchurin, who said had been recently wounded near Zaporizhzhia by a Ukrainian drone.

Some civilians who were interviewed said they were pleased the president had taken a hard-line conservative position promoting traditional family values.

Zhenya, 36, and his girlfriend, Masha, expressed gratitude that the government had “finally handled the L.G.B.T.Q. issue” — by banning what it called the “L.G.B.T.Q. movement.” The pair were attending a 1940s-themed Victory Day celebration in a park in central Moscow where participants fox-trotted and waltzed as a live military band played.

With no one who could credibly replace him, the prospect that Mr. Putin will stay in power as long as he is alive feels increasingly possible to ordinary Russians, said Andrei Kolesnikov, a Moscow-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.

“Everyone understands that this is for a long time,” he said. “The longer he is in power, the more apprehension there is about who will be next, who will be worse.”

“We are moving closer to a scenario where we could see the effect of Stalin, when, after his death, people were crying, because people didn’t know how to live,” Mr. Kolesnikov added.

Russians who oppose the government say they increasingly fear that they will have to wait for Mr. Putin’s death for anything to change.

“I feel a very strong sense of hopelessness,” said Yulia, 48, a teacher who was visiting the grave of Aleksei A. Navalny, the opposition politician, in southeast Moscow. Mr. Navalny, who died in prison in an Arctic penal colony in February, had long been considered the only possible challenger to Mr. Putin. Yulia declined to use her last name out of fear of possible repercussions.

“I don’t see a way out of this,” she said.

Yulia’s son, Pavel, said, “We are sure that everything depends on the death of person in a certain place.” His mother shushed him, noticing the uniformed Russian National Guard forces that stood nearby; even in death, Mr. Navalny is still monitored closely by the government. Still, there was a steady stream of visitors to the grave.

On the other side of Moscow, mourners were still coming to show their respects to the 145 victims of the March 22 terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall, one of the deadliest in Europe in the past decade. Floral wreaths, plush toys and photos of the victims were placed near the destroyed concert hall.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and American officials have blamed Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K , a branch of the group. Even so, the Kremlin has sought to cast blame on Ukraine and the West.

One woman who declined to give her name said she was sure the West was behind it — despite the fact that the United States had warned Moscow of an imminent attack . According to the Levada Center, half of those polled believe Ukraine was behind the attack, with almost 40 percent saying Western intelligence services were involved.

Vladimir, 26, who was visiting the improvised memorial for the first time, said he didn’t blame the Kremlin for failing to heed the warnings.

“I want the terrorists to be destroyed,” said Vladimir, a supermarket employee. But the president, he said, was doing a great job. “He works so hard.”

“ May God keep him alive and healthy,” he said. “If, God forbid, Putin dies, what will happen to our country?”

Anastasia Kharchenko contributed reporting from Moscow and Alina Lobzina from London.

Valerie Hopkins covers the war in Ukraine and how the conflict is changing Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the United States. She is based in Moscow. More about Valerie Hopkins

Our Coverage of the War in Ukraine

News and Analysis

As Russia’s war effort in Ukraine intensifies, it is increasingly clear that efforts by the West to squeeze Moscow’s oil revenues are faltering .

The United States and Europe are coalescing around a plan to use interest earned on frozen Russian central bank assets to provide Ukraine with a loan to be used for military and economic assistance .

The Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s talks with President Vladimir Putin of Russia were a show of solidarity  between two autocrats battling Western pressure.

Europe’s Defense Industry: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine jolted Europe out of complacency about military spending. But the challenges are about more than just money .

Putin’s Victory Narrative: The Russian leader’s message to his country appears to be taking hold : that Russia is fighting against the whole Western world — and winning.

A Boxing Win Offers Hope: The Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk became the world’s undisputed heavyweight champion, a victory that has lifted morale  in a country struggling to contain Russian advances.

How We Verify Our Reporting

Our team of visual journalists analyzes satellite images, photographs , videos and radio transmissions  to independently confirm troop movements and other details.

We monitor and authenticate reports on social media, corroborating these with eyewitness accounts and interviews. Read more about our reporting efforts .


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Eva longoria on why courting “the most diverse generation ever” is so important to her, breaking news.

Pussy Riot Co-Founder Nadya Tolokonnikova Still Banging The Drum For Freedom In Russia: “Rage Is Probably My Primary Emotion”

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Nadya Tolokonnikova interview

Nadya Tolokonnikova, co-founder of the feminist protest art collective Pussy Riot , was in Berlin when news broke on February 16 of the sudden death of Russian opposition leader  Alexei Navalny in an Arctic penal colony.

Two days later, she was protesting in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin alongside Pussy Riot co-member Lucy Shtein, his lawyer Lyubov Sobol and former Russian state TV employee and 2022 Deadline Disruptor Marina Ovsyannikova. 

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“They opened their doors for us to make a pop-up exhibit and just let people come together. It’s very important for me that we don’t close in on our little selves and grieve alone,” Tolokonnikova says via Zoom.

Tolokonnikova says Navalny was instrumental in her birth as a pro-democracy activist in her early 20s. 

The activist casts her mind back to the first time she saw him speak at an opposition conference in 2011. She and a friend had just anonymously announced the existence of Pussy Riot. 

“He came up on stage with his team, a group of young and thirsty-for-freedom professionals. They were extremely organized, focused and positive. It was refreshing. It felt like he already came from some Russia of the future,” she recounts.  

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“He was very personable, friendly and extremely charming. He gave me this conviction that I needed to build my own movement, just like he was doing, but with a focus on feminism and gay rights. And that’s what we did.” 

It marked the beginning of a decade of daring art and performance-based activations in Russia challenging Putin’s rule, including the Punk Prayer performance in a cathedral in Moscow which led to a two-year-prison sentence and a spell in a Siberian penal colony.

Tolokonnikova, who is now living outside of Russia, continues to resist Putin from afar. 

She is currently gearing up for her first museum show at OK Linz Center for Contemporary Art in Austria in June. 

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Moscow court rejects appeal to move to house arrest a deputy defense minister facing bribery charges

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov will remain behind bars on pre-trial detention on charges of taking an especially large bribe, a Moscow City Court ruled Wednesday.

FILE - This photo taken and released by Basmanny District Court press service on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, shows Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov standing in a defendants' cage in court in Moscow, Russia. A Moscow court on Wednesday rejected an appeal of the bribery arrest of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, whose lawyers sought to have him released from jail into house arrest. Ivanov, who was in charge of military construction projects, was arrested on April 23 and charged with accepting bribes on a large scale. (Basmanny District Court press service via AP, File)

FILE - This photo taken and released by Basmanny District Court press service on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, shows Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov standing in a defendants’ cage in court in Moscow, Russia. A Moscow court on Wednesday rejected an appeal of the bribery arrest of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, whose lawyers sought to have him released from jail into house arrest. Ivanov, who was in charge of military construction projects, was arrested on April 23 and charged with accepting bribes on a large scale. (Basmanny District Court press service via AP, File)

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In this photo released by the Moscow’s City Court, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov sits behind bars in a video link provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service during a session in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. A Moscow court on Wednesday rejected an appeal of the bribery arrest of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, whose lawyers sought to have him released from jail into house arrest. Ivanov, who was in charge of military construction projects, was arrested on April 23 and charged with accepting bribes on a large scale. (Moscow City Court via AP)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Moscow court rejected Wednesday an appeal filed by a Russian deputy defense minister’s lawyers who sought to have him moved from prison to house arrest as he faces bribery charges.

Timur Ivanov, who was in charge of military construction projects, was arrested on April 23 and charged with accepting bribes on a large scale. After the hearing in Moscow City Court, Russian news agencies quoted his attorney Murad Musayev as saying the case involved allegations of about 1 billion rubles ($11 million) and that Ivanov has been suspended from duty.

Two other men have been arrested in the case.

It is rare for such a high-ranking official to be charged with a crime in Russia and it is unclear what sparked the decision to arrest him.

The team of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny conducted anti-corruption investigations and accused Ivanov, an ally of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, of living a lavish lifestyle.

Ivanov, 48, was sanctioned by both the United States and European Union in 2022 after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine .

Russian media reported that Ivanov oversaw some of the construction in Mariupol, a Ukrainian port city that was devastated by bombardment and occupied by Russian forces early in the war.

FILE - Russian Permanent Representative to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia addresses members of the U.N. Security Council during a meeting on Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, April 24, 2024, at the United Nations headquarters. The United States says that Russia last week launched a satellite that could be part of weaponizing space. That's a possible future global trend that members of the United Nations Security Council condemn, even as they failed on May 20, to pass a measure against it. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

Zvezda, the official TV channel of the Russian military, reported in summer 2022 that the ministry was building an entire residential block in Mariupol and showed Ivanov inspecting construction sites and newly erected buildings.

Few other high-level officials have been prosecuted in Russia.

In April 2023, former Deputy Culture Minister Olga Yarilova was arrested and charged with embezzling more than 200 million rubles ($2.2 million). Yarilova, who held her post from 2018 to 2022, is on trial and facing a possible seven-year jail term.

Former Economics Minister Alexei Ulyukayev received an eight-year prison sentence in 2017 for accepting a $2 million bribe from one of Putin’s top associates. The high-profile trial was widely seen as part of infighting between Kremlin clans. Ulyukayev, now 68, was granted early release from prison in May 2022.

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Another Russian exodus: Many who fled to Turkey move on again

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Anti-war rap concert by Russian rapper Oxxxymiron, in Istanbul

  • Many Russians fled to Turkey after Ukraine war began
  • Some opposed the war, some wanted to escape sanctions
  • Turkey retains cordial ties with Russia despite war
  • Data shows more Russians are now leaving Turkey
  • Reasons include soaring inflation, residency issues


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Ukraine war latest: Russian missile ship hit, Kyiv officials say; Putin sacks minister in new sign of shift in strategy

Ukraine says it hit Russian missile ship Tsiklon in Crimea. Meanwhile, analysts say Moscow is seeking to draw out Kyiv's forces - as Putin makes another significant change to his cabinet.

Tuesday 21 May 2024 15:47, UK

Ukrainian servicemen patrol an area heavily damaged by Russian military strikes, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine May 20, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

  • Ukraine hit Russian missile ship, Kyiv officials say
  • Putin sacks minister in new sign of shift in war strategy
  • European country now pushing to let Ukraine strike deep into Russia with Western weapons
  • Russia using 'understaffed and incohesive forces' in bid to draw out Ukrainian troops
  • Ukraine says it shot down 28 0f 29 drones in overnight Russian attacks
  • Big picture: What you need to know as war enters new week
  • Live reporting by Richard Williams

As reported here earlier, German's foreign minister has been visiting Ukraine today.

Annalena Baerbock held talks with Volodomry Zelenskyy and spoke to Ukrainian energy minister Herman Halushchenko during an official visit to a thermal power plant that was destroyed by a Russian rocket attack in Ukraine.

Russian forces have wrought major damage with strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure since invading in 2022.

Ukraine's military hit the Russian missile ship Tsiklon in Moscow-occupied Crimea on Sunday, the Ukrainian general staff has said.

No further details on the matter but we'll bring you any updates on this as we get them.

Tens of thousands of Russians who fled to Turkey after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine have moved on to other countries in the past year, according to a new report.

Reuters says those who have moved have been squeezed by residency issues and soaring costs, citing data and interviews, including with nine Russian citizens.

Turkey, Russia's Black Sea neighbour - a NATO member - emerged as a magnet for Russians after the invasion in February 2022, with Istanbul and the Mediterranean resort of Antalya both among the preferred options.

Some of them had opposed the invasion, others were trying to shield themselves and their businesses from a wave of Western sanctions imposed on Moscow - including travel bans on Russians to much of Europe.

Some men feared being drafted into the army.

But this month, the number of Russians with Turkish resident permits fell to 96,000, down by more than a third from 154,000 at the end of 2022, official data shows.

Nine Russian citizens who spoke to Reuters said they and others had left partly due to struggles to get residence permits since early 2023. Many have headed to Serbia and Montenegro, among the few European countries where they are welcome.

Russians are also moving on because of soaring costs - Turkish inflation hit 70% last month - along with the difficulty doing basic banking in Turkey as a result of the sanctions.

"You can't predict your future in Turkey," said Dmitri, 46, an IT sector employee who declined to give his surname.

After Vladimir Putin announced a mobilisation in September 2022 to recruit Russian men to fight in Ukraine, Dmitri left Saint Petersburg and reunited with his wife and four-year-old son in Istanbul.

But in January 2023, a text message appeared on his phone saying his residency application was rejected without explanation, he said. Dmitri left Istanbul a month later.

"I had signed a rental contract for one year but had to leave everything behind," he said.

"We moved to Montenegro because it is economically and politically more stable than Turkey."

Turkey's Presidency of Migration Management said all rejected resident-permit applications include a justification in the foreigners' own language under relevant laws, and that applicants are free to pursue legal remedies.

In an email, it said departures of Russians were not only linked to residency permits.

"Several political, economic and sociocultural factors play a role," the government agency said.

One of the various sources of growing tension between the US and Russia has been the subject of the stationing of weapons in space.

Russia vetoed a US-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution last month that called on countries to prevent an arms race in outer space - prompting Washington to suggest Moscow was hiding something.

Then yesterday, a Russian-drafted resolution that called on all countries to prevent "for all time" the placement, threat or use of any weapons in outer space failed.

The draft failed to get the minimum nine votes needed from the 15-member group, with seven voting in favour and seven against, while one abstained.

A veto can only be cast by permanent members the US, Russia, China, Britain or France if a draft gets at least nine votes.

US ambassador Robert Wood told the Security Council before the vote: "We are here today because Russia seeks to distract global attention from its development of a new satellite carrying a nuclear device."

He also accused Russia of launching a satellite last Thursday into low Earth orbit that the US "assesses is likely a counterspace weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit".

Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia responded: "I didn't even fully understand what he was talking about."

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty already bars signatories - including Russia and the US - from placing "in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction".

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova today claimed Washington was to blame for the world missing another opportunity to prevent an arms race in outer space.

"The results of the vote on the draft resolution on preventing an arms race in outer space and on space security that Russia submitted to the UN Security Council for examination and China co-authored causes disappointment," she said.

"The United States and its allies acted against our constructive and comprehensive initiative, despite all steps that we made to take into account their proposals (including formulations of the corresponding American-Japanese draft resolution)," the diplomat said in a commentary.

"Another opportunity to prevent an arms race in outer space has, unfortunately, been missed through the fault of the United States and its allies."

The former commander of Russia's 58th army, Ivan Popov, has been arrested on suspicion of "large scale fraud", state-run TASS agency is reporting.

TASS has not provided any details of the investigation into Popov's activities.

We'll bring you more on this story as we get it.

We reported earlier this morning (see 7.29 post) that Ukrainian officials had said their forces shot down 28 out of 29 drones used by Russian forces in an overnight attack on seven regions.

However, at least seven people were injured in a strike in Kharkiv, which also damaged four private residences and 25 trucks and buses.

Footage from the scene shows firefighters battling flames in the wake of the attack.

We reported in our 12.00 post about the visit to Kyiv of Germany's foreign minister, in an effort to lend support to Ukraine's war on Russia.

However, it now appears Germany is set to offer assistance beyond the symbolic, with a source telling Reuters the country plans to ramp up military aid for Ukraine by another €3.8bn (£3.25 billion).

So far, Berlin has earmarked €7.1bn (£5.98bn) for Kyiv with weapons and ammunition this year, but the money has already been almost completely allocated to projects, Bild newspaper reported

It added that Defence Minister Boris Pistorius had asked for the additional funds and Finance Minister Christian Lindner had signalled his backing, pending final approval by parliament in June.

A finance ministry source did not confirm the exact number but added that support for Ukraine would not fail because of the ministry.

According to the report, Mr Pistorius has requested €15bn (£12.82bn) be allocated for military aid for Kyiv in Germany's 2025 budget, which is being negotiated at the moment.

As Russia continues to establish momentum in its offensives around Kharkiv, the war in Ukraine has entered an important phase.

Readers have been sending in their questions to our senior correspondents and military experts for their take on the changing battlefield environment.

Today, Peter asks:

Would US A10 Warthogs make any difference to the war in Ukraine? The US has excess stock and is decommissioning them now. They are cheaper than the F-16s, with a shorter learning curve. I know the US military was against sending some over at the beginning of the war, but now?

Military analyst Sean Bell  had this to say:

Thank you, Peter, for this interesting question.

History shows that conducting any form of military action without a credible combat air capability is very difficult. Russia is using its air force assets to pound the Ukrainian frontline, and although Ukraine has used Western surface-to-air missiles to great effect - shooting down around 10% of Russia's fighter jets - the Russian fighter air capability presents a formidable threat to any Ukrainian offensive.

The quickest way to provide Ukraine with the air support it requires would be via a NATO or Western-led no-fly zone. However, to date, there has been limited Western appetite to risk an escalation of the war to a direct conflict between NATO and Russia.

Instead, the West has agreed to provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but only when they have enough pilots trained to operate these Western aircraft, and when the logistics support and weapons are also available.

Providing Ukraine with an F-16 combat capability has taken time, and it is still not clear when the aircraft and supporting logistics will be deployed into battle, or how the F-16s will be used. One reason the F-16s were selected for Ukraine was their availability - it is the most widely used fighter jet of its generation - as that also means there is a ready supply of spares.

Most important, the F-16 is multirole. It is capable of conducting air defence missions - shooting down enemy aircraft - along with bombing missions, and it has the speed and agility to ensure survivability.

The US A-10 Warthog is an immensely capable aircraft, but it is optimised for Close Air Support - close-proximity support of ground forces. At this role it is very effective, but the platform has no air defence capability, and by modern fighter-jet standards, it is very slow - a third of the speed of many Russian fighters. That would make it very vulnerable to Russian attack if deployed into battle without a comprehensive package of air support.

Once the war is over, Ukraine will need to rebuild its own combat air capability, and might benefit from the A-10's unique capabilities. But for now, the F-16 provides Ukraine with the best prospect of a near-term combat-effective combat air capability.

Germany's foreign minister has arrived in Kyiv today in the latest public display of support for Ukraine by its Western partners - although deliveries of promised weapons and ammunition have been slow and have left Ukraine vulnerable to a recent Russian push along parts of the frontline.

Annalena Baerbock renewed Berlin's calls for partners to send more air defence systems, as Russia bombards Ukraine with missiles, glide bombs and rockets.

Germany is the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States.

Ukraine's depleted troops are trying to hold off a fierce Russian offensive along the eastern border in one of the most critical phases of the war, as it stretches into its third year.

Germany recently pledged a third US-made Patriot battery for Ukraine, but Kyiv officials say they are still facing an alarming shortfall of air defences against the Russian onslaught.

The Kremlin's forces have used their advantage in the skies to debilitate Ukraine's power grid, hoping to sap Ukrainian morale and disrupt its defence industry.

Ms Baerbock, accompanied by Ukrainian energy minister Herman Halushchenko, toured a thermal power plant in central Ukraine that was heavily damaged in April. 

Missiles supplied by the United States were used to strike Russian-occupied Ukranian region Luhansk, a Moscow-installed official has said.

The head of the Luhansk region, Leonid Pasechnik, said today that Ukraine had attacked it the previous day with ATACMS, wounding eight people.

The claim of the attack on the city of Sverdlovsk could not be independently verified.

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Moscow Court Dismisses Appeals for Putin Critic's Poisoning Investigations

A moscow court concluded that no further investigation is required for two poisoning attempts on jailed dissident vladimir kara-murza. initially detained for condemning russia's war in ukraine and supporting western sanctions, kara-murza faces severe health complications in prison, adding urgency to his denied appeals..

Moscow Court Dismisses Appeals for Putin Critic's Poisoning Investigations

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A Moscow court ruled on Tuesday that Russia's Investigative Committee is not obliged to investigate two attempts on the life of jailed dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, independent news outlet Mediazona reported. Moscow-born Kara-Murza, who has both Russian and British passports, was jailed last April for 25 years on treason charges after he repeatedly condemned Russia's war in Ukraine and lobbied for Western sanctions against Moscow. His appeal against the sentence was rejected this month.

The 42-year-old politician and former journalist has survived two poisoning attempts. He became ill and was hospitalised in Moscow in 2015, a few months after his colleague, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, was gunned down while walking across a bridge near the Kremlin walls. In 2017, Kara-Murza was placed in a medically induced coma and put on life support after the onset of similar symptoms.

A joint investigation led by the Bellingcat outlet subsequently found that Kara-Murza was trailed by the same unit of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) that allegedly poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020. Navalny died in an Arctic prison in February. Kara-Murza's wife Evgenia says the poison attempts have left him with a nerve disorder and she fears for his life in prison.

His lawyer sent requests to the Investigative Committee to investigate the poisonings, which were denied. The Moscow City Court on Tuesday rejected Kara-Murza's appeal against those decisions, said Mediazona, which reports on human rights and court cases in Russia. Kara-Murza called investigators' claims that they had looked into the murders and interviewed witnesses "a direct, documented lie" in court, speaking via video link from the Siberian prison where he is incarcerated, Mediazona reported.

He also spoke out in support of Zhenya Berkovich and Svetlana Petriychuk, a Russian theatre director and playwright whose trial began on Monday in Moscow, according to the report. (Reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou Editing by Christina Fincher)

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