A 223-foot (68-metre) luxury yacht owned by a former KGB agent and longtime acquaintance of Vladimir Putin is currently stranded at a Norwegian port after locals’ persistent refusal to sell it fuel.
The vessel, called Ragnar, an old norse word meaning “warrior”, is owned by Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, and its crew has been told by Norwegian fuel suppliers in the northern port of Narvik to “row home” or “raise the sails”. They say they will not refuel it because of the owner’s links to the Russian president.
Its captain Rob Lankester, who says he is a British former Royal Marine, has accused Norwegian authorities of discrimination, saying the yacht’s owner is not on the sanctions list and that neither he, nor his 15-man crew, is Russian. Neither he says, is the yacht Russian, as it is registered in Malta, sailing under the Maltese flag. “But no one will listen to us,” he said.
Lankester added that he and his crew “just want to go home”. He has accused Norway of operating double standards as Russian fishing boats, which he said account for 20% of the economy in northern Norway, are “able to buy fuel and operate unhindered in Norwegian ports and waters”. Russia landed $150m in fish in Norway in 2021 according to publication Intrafish.
Lankester told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK, which was allowed on to the yacht: “We are a western crew of 16 people on board. We have nothing to do with the owner of the boat.”
In a written complaint addressed to authorities on 15 March, and seen by the Guardian, he wrote: “As a western crew we are disappointed in the double standards that certain factors of Norway have inflicted on the yacht and crew. This yacht and its ultimate beneficial owner are on no European or UK sanction list so we find the discrimination towards us extremely unjust.”
Strzhalkovsky made his fortune in nickel mining as CEO of Norilsk Nickel, reportedly receiving a golden payout of $100m when he stepped down after four years a decade ago. He has served a spell as Russia’s deputy economics minister, and is currently on the board of Dynamo Moscow football club.
He is not on the European Union’s list of oligarchs sanctioned as a consequence of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Norway, which is not a member of the EU, but is closely associated with it and its legal framework through its membership of the European Economic Area, is supportive of the sanctions already imposed. A Norwegian government official told the country’s media that the vessel could only be confiscated if the action was supported by an EU directive.
However, locals have said the superyacht is not welcome and have taken matters into their own hands. Local leaders and members of Narvik’s business economy have urged the Norwegian authorities to seize the boat.
Sven Holmlund, general manager of Holmlund oil supplies in Narvik, told NRK: “Russians’ conduct in Ukraine leaves me speechless. Why should we help them? They can row home, or raise their sails.”
Halbakk Bunkers, which supplies fuel along the entire Norwegian coast and specialises in fuelling foreign ore ships which frequent the port of Narvik, has also turned down offers to help.
“We are fully aware of what is happening in Ukraine,” its general manager Gunnar Grann told NRK. “Therefore we have chosen to say no to all Russian boats, including trawlers. We don’t want to get into a situation where we in any way are contributing to the Russian economy.”
NRK described a tour around the luxury yacht which it said “oozes luxury and exclusive craftsmanship”. It has ice-breaking capabilities and is equipped for polar exploration. It boasts its own gym, spa, pool, helicopter pad and several sundecks as well as a garage with snowmobiles, jet skis, skiing equipment and snowboards. It was recently put up for sale for €69m and is available for rent for €40,000 a week.
Lankester said it had sailed to Narvik for its guests to “engage in winter tourism”, but that a group of guests due to arrive on 13 March had “failed to turn up”.
This content was originally published here.