Dutch customs officials placed 14 yachts at five shipyards under “special supervision” on Wednesday because they are being built or repaired for wealthy Russians.
Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said 12 yachts are under construction and two are undergoing maintenance. The boats will not be allowed to leave the country because of the export ban and sanctions imposed on hundreds of wealthy supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Netherlands has been criticized for its slow start to enforcing sanctions.
Russian owners made up 9% of all superyacht owners in 2021, making Russia the second largest ownership country behind the United States, according to Superyacht Times.
The U.S. government on Monday seized a 254-foot yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to Putin. Other countries also have seized the luxury boats.
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► The Russian military has killed more than 320 civilians in Bucha, Mayor Anatolii Fedoruk said Wednesday.
► $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles will be sent to Ukraine to meet an urgent need, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement. The transfer brings the total of U.S. military assistance for Ukraine to $2.4 billion since President Joe Biden took office last January.
► Greece is expelling 12 Russian diplomats. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Western countries have expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats.
Pope Francis kissed the Ukrainian flag and renewed his appeal Wednesday for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. During his weekly audience in the Vatican’s auditorium, several Ukrainian children – now refugees in Italy – joined him on the stage. The pope furled the faded, stained flag and held it up, saying the flag “came from war, from that martyred city of Bucha.” He condemned “the massacre” in that city outside Kyiv.
“Ever more horrendous cruelties, even against civilians, women and helpless children,” the pope said. “They are victims whose innocent blood cries out to heaven and implores.”
The Biden administration will announce a ban on new investment in Russia and other new sanctions Wednesday in response to atrocities such as recent revelations of barbaric acts in the town of Bucha. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the measures are designed to “degrade key instruments of Russian state power, impose acute and immediate economic harm on Russia and hold accountable the Russian kleptocracy that funds and supports Putin’s war.”
The penalties, made in coordination with G-7 and European Union allies, also involve increased sanctions on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises and also on Russian government officials and their family members.
As a result of sanctions on Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s economy is forecast to contract as much as 15% or more in 2022, according to the Institute for International Finance.
The U.N. Security Council fell silent Tuesday when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy played a video showing the destruction that had taken place in the city of Bucha over the previous weeks. The footage showed hundreds of dead bodies littering the streets. Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied again that Russian troops had killed civilians, saying the killings were acts of Ukrainians. He said Russia didn’t come for Ukrainian land, but to bring peace to the Donbas region.
“To do so, it is necessary to root out the cruelty … and remove the Nazi malignant tumor that is devouring Ukraine and would have eventually begun to devour Russia,” Nebenzia said. “We will achieve this goal, hopefully, sooner rather than later.”
Russia is a permanent member of the security Council and holds veto power. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States, in coordination with Ukraine and many other UN Member States, will seek Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.
“Every day, we see more and more how little Russia respects human rights,” she said.
– Celina Tebor
Contributing: The Associated Press