(CNN) – For 10 years, Taras Ostopsuk, as Chief Engineer of Lady Anastasia, did the work that many consider a luxury, a dream job. Already I The 47.5-meter-long ship sailed through the Mediterranean, mainly from one luxury port to another.
But that changed on February 26, when the ship sank off the Spanish island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean.
Ostapchuk saw media reports of a Russian missile attack on an apartment building in his hometown of Kyiv. It was like he lived with his wife when he was not on the ship.
Then he said, “I think it may be my house next.” That’s when he decided to sink the boat. “This is my first step towards a war with Russia.”
In an interview with CNN from Ukraine, Ostapchuk, 55, directly linked the devastation in his hometown to what he calls the owner of Lady Anastasia: Selfishness Russian Alexander Mikeev. He is the CEO of Rosophoronexport, a Russian arms company that sells everything from helicopters to tanks, missile systems and submarines.
Ostopsuk decided on his mission: to drown Lady Anastasia.
The latest phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine began two days ago, with an offensive by forces from Russia, Belarus and Russia-annexed Crimea. As the attack unfolded, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions and confiscated assets associated with oligarchy in Vladimir Putin’s circle.
No property is as clear as how Putin’s boasted of oligarchy’s under his rule, some of them up to the Washington monument, helipads, swimming pools and luxurious interiors.
Ostapchuk He went to Lady Anastasia’s engine room, where he opened the valve attached to the hull of the ship. As the water overflowed he went to the staff quarters, where he opened another valve.
“There were three crew members on board besides me. The ship was sinking and I told them to get out,” he said in Russian.
Search for disappearances with boats
By most standards, Lady Anastasia is a luxury with nine staff members: a master stateroom with Carrara marble bathrooms, 10 guest rooms, and a jacuzzi on a sundeck that is positioned against the movement of the ship.
Russian oligarchs own some of the existing luxury boats. Tilbar, a 156-meter boat owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, was identified by Tilbar as a “forbidden asset” on March 3, according to the Treasury Department. There are two helipads and cabins for dozens of guests. Usmanov did not respond to CNN questions about the boat.
Or take the boat Amore Vero, which was captured by French authorities on March 2. They say he is associated with Igor Chechen, a licensed Russian oil executive and an ally of Putin. (The ship’s management company denies it is owned by Chechnya.) A former boat crew member, who asked not to be identified because he had signed a secret agreement, said Amore Vero included a safe room at its lowest level.
“It’s not even in the official shipping plans,” he said. “There was a secret door with a hidden camera. You could remove the wall and inside there were beds, emergency communications, a bathroom and CCTV.”
Although officials in many countries blame Russian oligarchy for the ownership of the boats, the paperwork between the ship and the owner is often blurred, passing through shell companies and complex legal frameworks. For example, Spain states that boats are “temporarily detained” when determining ownership.
Mikev was cleared by the US State Department on March 15.
When contacted by CNN Mikheev about Lady Anastasia’s property, a spokeswoman for Rosoboronexport responded by email, saying, “The company will not comment on any information about the personal lives of employees or their assets, except in cases prescribed by law of the Russian Federation.”
But Ostapchuk said he had no doubts. “Well, you know, if a creature is like a dog, if a dog barks, if it bites like a dog, it’s a dog. So, in ten years, the boat. [fue] Used for holidays only [por ] Mr. Mickey and his family, so I think he’s the real owner of this boat. “
Among the growing list of sanctions and seizures, Boats According to data from the Marine Traffic website, the Russian oligarchy is targeting countries where sanctions are unlikely to be applied.
Two boats, allegedly owned by the European Union and the United Kingdom-sanctioned oligarchy and Putin’s ally Roman Abramovich, were docked in ports in southwestern Turkey on Monday and Tuesday. One of the boats, the Solaris, was anchored in Barcelona until the beginning of March, while one of the world’s largest ships, the Eclipse, crossed the Atlantic over the Caribbean.
Both ships sailed through the rough terrain of many Greek islands, bypassing EU waters en route to Turkey. Turkey, despite being a member of NATO, has made it clear that it will not allow Russia to invade Ukraine.
A small group of protesters waved Ukrainian flags and chanted “No war in Ukraine” as they tried to park the port of Solaris in a port in Portrum, Turkey on Monday, and a massive boat fell on them. The BBC reports that some of the protesters were members of a Ukrainian youth sailing group who had left their country before the invasion to take part in a sailing competition in Turkey.
Many ships associated with Russia appear to be heading to the Middle East or South Asia, which have refused to impose sanctions on Russia. Marine traffic data show that the boat Cleo, owned by aluminum magnate and Putin’s ally Oleg Deribaska, and Quantum Blue, owned by billionaire retailer Sergei Kalitsky, were off the coast of Oman this week. Cleo noted that Dubai was the target before being diverted to Mumbai, while Quantum Blue arrived in Monaco before leaving in early March. Deribaska is permitted by the United States and the United Kingdom, not Kalitsky.
Meanwhile, according to Marine Traffic, at least half a dozen other boats affiliated with Russian oligarchs have stopped sending location data in recent weeks.
The Galactica Supernova, owned by Russian oil executive Vakit Alekberov, was last recorded leaving the port of Divat in Montenegro and heading into the Adriatic Sea, the day after the Montenegrin government announced that it would join the European Union on March 2. In imposing sanctions on Russia. Although Alekberov was not allowed, he was added to the 2018 U.S. Treasury Department list of Russian oligarchs.
Margi Traffic spokesman Giorgios Hotzimanolis said the boats had shut down the AIS, an automated surveillance system, largely to explain the lack of location data. International maritime regulations generally require large ships, such as boats attached to oligarchs, to maintain AIS until they pass through areas known for piracy, Hatzimanolis said. Turning off the transmitter may increase the risk of collision when ships go into turbulent waters.
“This is unusual,” Hatsymanolis said of the boats going dark. “But these are unprecedented times for these boats and their owners. They are trying to get out of the way and into unpunished places.”
‘You have to choose’
After the boxes flooded, Ostopsuk told the other three crew members on board what he had done.
They are also Ukrainians, he said. But, fearing it would cost them their job, they shouted at him, according to the summary report of his investigation.
They then phoned port officials and police. Port staff brought a water pump and prevented the ship from sinking. Ostapchuk was arrested.
“I reported to the police that I tried to sink the ship in political protest against the Russian occupation,” he told CNN.
“You have to choose. Are you with Ukraine or not. You have to choose, Ukraine will be, or you will have a job. If Ukraine does not exist I do not need a job.”
In some cases, those jobs can be risky anyway. On March 15, Spanish authorities temporarily detained Lady Anastasia to determine if she was subject to European sanctions and if she could be captured. It was one of three boats associated with the Russian oligarchy they detained that week. Others have been arrested or detained in France, Germany, Italy and Gibraltar.
On March 7, Forbes reported that the Tilbar boat management company had laid off all 96 crew members, barring the ship from operating normally.
Sanctions on Russian oligarchs seem to have caused challenges and confusion among some boat crews. The Maritime Association Nautilus International held a question and answer session with key boat experts earlier this month and asked “Should we leave all Russian boats?” Received such questions. And “What do I pay if I am fired because I was fined on my ship?” Union representatives instructed members to check the terms of their contracts.
‘They must take responsibility’
When CNN spoke to Ostapchuk from Ukraine on Wednesday, the conversation was immediately interrupted by warnings of an impending Russian attack. Ostapchuk later returned to Ukraine on February 27 after being released by Spanish authorities after returning from a shelter.
“Now that I’ve served in the military, I hope my service will help our success,” he said.
He hopes that pro-Putin oligarchy will feel the brunt of the sanctions.
“They must take responsibility because it is precisely their behavior, their way of life, their insatiable greed that has led to this … to divert people from the real plunder of Russia that they are organizing wars by these rulers. Distraction with other innocent nations.”
CNN’s Drew Griffin and Yahya Abou-Ghazala contributed to this report.