© Reuters. A protestor tries to push away a ladder being used by police officers as they attempt to enter a building next to the mansion reportedly belonging to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who was placed on Britain’s sanctions list last week, as squatters occupy it, in Belgravia, London, Britain, March 14, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) -Police on Monday evicted squatters who had occupied a London mansion belonging to the family of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who was placed on Britain’s sanctions list last week in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wearing riot gear, officers entered the multi-million pound mansion in Belgrave Square (NYSE:SQ), a home to numerous foreign embassies that is located in an upmarket area of the British capital.
“You occupy Ukraine, we occupy you,” the squatters, who described themselves as anarchists, said in a statement. “By occupying this mansion, we want to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine, but also the people of Russia who never agreed to this madness.”
The squatters had gathered on the balcony at the front of the property, where they unfurled a Ukrainian flag and placed a banner reading ‘This property has been liberated’. A lengthy standoff ended at 2000 GMT.
“The four people protesting on the balcony of a building in Belgrave Square … have come down and been arrested,” police said. Earlier, police said they had arrested four others who tried to gain access to the property.
Britain froze the assets of Deripaska last Thursday, one of a number of Russian oligarchs targeted in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A spokeswoman for Deripaska said the house belonged to members of his family rather than to him personally.
“We are appalled at the negligence of Britain’s justice system shown by Boris Johnson’s cabinet in introducing the sanctions and colluding with the sort of people who raid private property,” she said.
“It’s truly a disgrace that this is happening in a country that is supposed to respect private property and the rule of law.”
Deripaska, who has stakes in energy company En+ Group, the owner of one of the world’s major aluminium producers, is worth an estimated 2 billion pounds and has a multi-million pound property portfolio in Britain, according to the British government.
London High Court documents from 2007 identified Deripaska as the beneficial owner of the Belgrave Square mansion. A judge in a court case the year before said the property and another house he owned outside the capital were then worth about 40 million pounds ($52 million).
Britain has sanctioned about 20 Russian oligarchs, including Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich, freezing their properties across London and banning them from coming to Britain.
“Squatting in residential buildings is illegal but we are working to identify the appropriate use for seized properties while owners are subject to sanctions,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters. “We certainly don’t think people should break the law.”
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Police oust squatters from Russian oligarch’s London mansion