Posted on December 6, 2022
A superyacht belonging to an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon be transferred to the custody of the Ukrainian government and auctioned off, according to Ukraine’s Asset Recovery and Management Agency (ARMA).
The yacht Royal Romance was seized by officials in the Croatian port of Rijeka in connection with EU sanctions in March 2022. The 300-foot vessel is owned by Ukrainian businessman Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Kremlin political leader and personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Medvedchuk is subject to U.S. and EU sanctions on Russian-linked oligarchs.
In November, a Croatian court issued a search warrant allowing the FBI and local police forces to board and investigate the vessel. After the search, the district court in Split, Croatia decided to transfer her ownership to Ukraine for auction, according to ARMA. The Ukrainian agency has been in talks with representatives of the port, local law enforcement and Croatia’s justice ministry on the details of the transfer, and its representatives recently made a journey out to the port to inspect the yacht’s condition.
After transfer of ownership to ARMA, the yacht will be sold off to the highest bidder, and the proceeds will go to Ukraine. The agency noted that it “is a unique situation and has no analogues not only in Ukraine, but also in international practice.”
Medvedchuk was widely believed to be Moscow’s choice to replace Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after the (failed) Russian assault on Kyiv, and he had substantial disagreements with Zelensky’s administration. In February 2021, he was sanctioned by the Ukrainian government for funding Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Three months later, he was arrested in Kyiv and charged with treason for “illegal exploitation of natural resources” in Russian-occupied Crimea. He spent the next 10 months under house arrest in Kyiv, but escaped shortly after the start of the Russian invasion this February. He was recaptured by Ukrainian special forces, then traded to Moscow in exchange for more than 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Medvedchuk was once worth an estimated $600 million, but much of his material wealth has been seized, including a Gulfstream jet and a Bell executive helicopter. Both are now in the service of the Ukrainian armed forces.