For all the talk of sanctions on Russia and its elite, the status symbols of the billionaire class remain free to roam the skies and the seas.

Russia’s ultra-rich are among the biggest owners of private jets and superyachts, two of the most opulent displays of massive wealth. 

So far, even as the U.S. and U.K. have ramped up sanctions on more than 100 Russian individuals and entities, these assets of the country’s elite -- which can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars each -- have avoided any direct hit. So too have their high-end real estate holdings, which in London range from Chelsea penthouses to Highgate mansions.

One of the most high-profile status symbols in the U.K. is drawing attention lately: Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s ownership of the prized English football club Chelsea FC. It’s one of Europe’s most successful teams and valued at about 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion). Prime Minister Boris Johnson mistakenly said on Tuesday that Abramovich had already been sanctioned.

As tensions in the region escalate, some U.K. lawmakers are pressing to widen the scope of those subject to harsh penalties for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, even as he signals a potential willingness to talk. 

“Surely Mr. Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country,” Labour MP Chris Bryant said on Thursday. “Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets, including his 152 million pound home, and making sure that other people who have had Tier 1 visas like this are not engaged in malign activity.”

Abramovich is not currently on the U.K.’s sanctions list.

Aircraft Activity
Aircraft controlled by Abramovich, as well as Dmitry Mazepin and Alexey Mordashov, landed in Moscow on Thursday, according to flight data website ADS-B Exchange. Abramovich’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner took off from an airport near Monaco, while Mazepin’s Gulfstream G650 flew from the New York area. Mordashov’s Bombardier Global 6000 traveled from the Seychelles region in the western Indian Ocean, according to the data, which didn’t include details of passengers on the flights.

Putin had invited executives and owners of major Russian businesses to a meeting on Thursday at the Kremlin. Mazepin was there, as was Mordashov. So was Vladimir Potanin, Russia’s wealthiest person in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a $26.1 billion fortune. 

The aircraft owned by Mordashov, Russia’s second-richest person with a net worth of $23 billion, then flew back to the Seychelles region on Thursday, the flight data show. Mordashov’s yacht Nord, completed in 2020 at an estimated cost of $500 million, has been sailing in the island nation for 10 days.

Representatives for Mazepin, 53, and Mordashov, 56, declined to comment, while a representative for Abramovich, 55, didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

Billionaire Comforts
Assets like planes or yachts could be targeted by a round of sanctions, according to Andrew Lohsen, a fellow in the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The challenge is they could be held through shell companies, complicating the ownership chain.

Imposing sanctions on Russian’s ultra-rich “is important, but I recognize that it is complex,” Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine’s former finance minister, said in a telephone interview. “It takes time, but you have to take away their comforts.”

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