The former KGB officer, the yacht and the collapse

Will Ragnar finally weigh anchor? Immobilized in the Arctic, the ultra-luxurious yacht, owned by a Russian oligarch, a former KGB officer, may have found some of the fuel that the Norwegians have been refusing it for weeks in response to the war in Ukraine.

The impressive ship detonates in the harbor in Narvik, a small town in northern Norway. With its inverted bow, its helicopter platform and, a bit like the matryoshka dolls, this other large boat resting on its back deck, its dark gray silhouette contrasts with the cargo ships that have come to load minerals.

But it is above all the owner’s identity that makes it a local curiosity: the 68 meter long yacht, which would house a wide range of other toys (amphibious vessels, jet skis, underwater robots and snowmobiles, giant sledges, English pubs …), belongs to Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, according to various specialized sites.

After becoming extremely wealthy after a juicy stay at the helm of mining giant Norilsk Nickel, this 67-year-old businessman is said to have connections with Vladimir Putin, whom he served for the KGB in St. Petersburg when the city was still called Leningrad.

If he is not on the list of Russians targeted by European sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, his presumed proximity to the leader of the Kremlin is appalling.

When Ragnar had to refuel in Narvik, where she had stopped on 15 February, no one wanted to sell her fuel.

“Let them rest”

“I have no sympathy for the behavior of the Russians in Ukraine. Why should we help them? ” argued Sven Holmlund, director of one of the local suppliers.

“Let them row home. Or that they hoist the sails,” he says to the Norwegian channel NRK.

Unable to return to its home port in Malta, the yacht has been ordered to remain anchored for five weeks now.

There he saw the NATO warships pass by and take part in major military maneuvers, exercise Cold Response 2022, which is currently taking place in Norway. This week, the Russian oligarch’s ship even shared its pontoon with … the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi.

The captain of the yacht, a former Royal Marine, has lost his British calm.

In a note taken to the harbor, Rob Lankaster said he was “very disappointed with the double standards” of his Norwegian hosts, who agreed to deliver Russian trawlers, but not the yacht he commanded, led by a crew that was completely western, and which he claims not to know the owner.

According to the Superyacht fan site, Ragnar was put up for sale for 69.5 million euros in 2021. But there is no indication that it has changed hands.

Equipment on Tuesday?

The case embarrasses the Norwegian authorities, who have endorsed almost all the sanctions adopted by the EU (EU), but who are generally reluctant to irritate their powerful neighbor Russia.

There is no question of seizing the yacht, as France and Italy have done, as Mr Strzhalkovsky is not among the sanctioned personalities.

Without openly wanting to encourage suppliers to change their position, the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries Bjørnar Skjæran seemed to send signals in this direction.

“We can all agree that the best thing today would be for the yacht to be able to continue on its way,” he told NRK.

According to the chain, a supplier has finally agreed to sell 300,000 liters of diesel, which would allow equipment to depart on Tuesday.

In the port of Narvik, a tanker is waiting near Ragnar, and the crew on the boat, which would have 16 members, appear to be in full preparation, AFP noted.

But tongues are hardly loosened.

Only a Briton who seems to have leadership positions agrees to answer a few questions laconic.

A Tuesday departure? First no. Why? Unclear refueling problems. Impossible to find out more.

“This whole situation is absurd,” he says.

AFP

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