U.K. Sanctions Kremlin Financial Network Worth $4.5 Billion

Published: 08 February 2023

640px-Putin palace sea viewThe view of the Black Sea from Putin’s $1.4 billion palace. (Photo: Russian Wikileaks, Wikimedia, License)

By Henry Pope

The U.K. Foreign Secretary unleashed a new round of sanctions Wednesday against the Russian military and Kremlin elites, targeting among others an IT services company linked by OCCRP and Meduza last year to more than 80 interconnected firms with billions in assets and all tied to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Seven entities have been sanctioned for their role in backing the Russian war machine, including one with “nefarious financial networks that help maintain wealth and power amongst Kremlin elites,” the government press release said.

This is the IT services company Moscoms LLC, whose LLCInvest.ru domain supports the infrastructure behind 86 interconnected companies and non-profit organizations, all linked by common directors and registration addresses, and all found to use the same auditors and registrars.

Together, they control no less than $4.5 billion in assets; including mansions, business jets, yachts and bank accounts. It is, in other words, a nexus for Russia’s most opaque financial network, inhabited by Kremlin elites, whose power and standing lives and dies by the authoritarian leader’s will.

Many companies tied to ‘LLCInvest’ hold dozens of valuable properties and businesses.  Some of these, OCCRP found, are associated with Bank Rossiya, a lender widely known as “Putin’s bank.”

Amongst the properties uncovered is none other than Putin’s own Black Sea Palace, which is valued at $1.4 billion and boasts nearly 18,000 square meters of floor space, a casino, a hookah bar with a stripper pole, a theater, and more than a dozen bedrooms.

The airspace around the 69 hectare seaside estate is regulated as a no-fly zone by Russian authorities. Ships are similarly not permitted to approach the coastline anywhere near the palace.

The remaining six entities sanctioned by U.K. authorities Wednesday were chosen for their role in sustaining the Russian war machine. They include a Russian drone manufacturer, a military aviation software company, and a producer of anti-aircraft missile systems.

The sanctions were announced the same day that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in the U.K. to discuss having additional military equipment sent to the front to support Ukraine against an anticipated Russian spring offensive.

“Ukraine has shown Putin that it will not break under his tyrannical invasion,” said James Cleverly, U.K. Foreign Secretary. Cleverly noted an increased urgency to support the Ukrainian military and condemned Putin for “indiscriminately striking civilian areas and critical national infrastructure” across Ukraine in response to his own armed forces’ shortcomings on the battlefield.

Over 1,300 individuals and entities, as well as £20 billion ($24.1 billion) of trade in goods, have now been sanctioned by the U.K. since Putin launched his war of aggression almost one year ago.

“We cannot let him succeed,” Cleverly said.