Squatters Took Over a Russian Oligarch’s London Mansion

There can be “no forgiveness” for those who support the war in Ukraine, the squatters told VICE World News.
Simon Childs
London, GB
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PHOTO: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Anarchist squatters occupied a west-London mansion allegedly owned by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the British government for his ties to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Five squatters entered the sprawling townhouse in the early hours of Monday morning, and say that they will not leave until Putin stops the war.

The group is called the London Makhnovists after Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno, who led an anarcho-communist army during the Russian civil war. They hung a Ukrainian flag out of the window, and draped banners over the balconies reading “this property has been liberated” and “Putin go fuck yourself” in Ukrainian and English.

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Deripaska is not personally cited by UK Land Registry records as the owner of 5 Belgrave Square. Ravellot Limited, a company based in the British Virgin Islands, is listed as the mansion’s owner, and a 2007 High Court judgement said the oligarch "beneficially owns" the property. 

Deripaska, an industrialist who made his fortune from energy and metals, has deep links to the British establishment and once hosted former British Chancellor George Osborne and Peter Mandelson, spin doctor for Tony Blair, on his yacht in Corfu.

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Deripaska with Putin. PHOTO: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

The police responded to the incident by sending 9 vans of police officers and squad cars, including riot police carrying shields. They also bought a ladder and mobile platform to climb onto the balcony of an adjoining mansion while another team of officers including riot police with helmets and shields used a drill to open the door. The police and the squatters then had an hours-long standoff with cops standing on a cherry-picker to talk to the squatters.

Speaking to VICE World News on condition of anonymity, one of the squatters said that they were taking “action, not words” and that there could be “no forgiveness” for those who support the war. 

In a statement circulated on social media, the London Makhnovists said that the mansion would “serve as a centre for refugee support, for Ukrainians and people of all nations and all ethnicities.”

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It said: “Russian oligarchs: You occupy Ukraine, we occupy you.”

The group was occupying the mansion in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and Russia and praised those who have been “fighting in the belly of the beast” by protesting the war in Russia.

The statement also criticises “the elites here in the UK, who have been Putin’s minions for years.”

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said the government wants to “explore an option” of using sanctioned oligarchs’ mansions to house refugees from Ukraine but has admitted that there would be a “high legal bar to cross”.

Deripaska has suggested he could challenge the sanctions in court, saying there is "not a single fact" to support them. The sanctions freeze his assets, ban him from travelling to the UK, and ban UK citizens from doing business with him. 

Speaking to the assembled media from the balcony, one of the squatters pointed out the irony that if you volunteer to go and fight in Ukraine, a government minister will endorse you, but if you squat an oligarch’s mansion you will be greeted by riot police.