by Mark Porter in Cannes and Edward Steen in Vienna, March 14, 2022
Activist Pierre Haffner, a Russophile Basque now under arrest, and an accomplice, have become world-famous for breaking into the Biarritz villa which was until recently the/a home of Vladimir Putin’s second daughter Katerina Tikhonova, 35. Haffner announced that the villa was ready to receive refugees from Ukraine, according to the staunchly anti-war Russian investigative website, The Insider.
The website, known inter alia for its fearless exposure of Russian fake news, published the video above, taken by Haffner in the €4m villa. The two men found a copy of a passport belonging to Kirill Shamalov, Katarina née Putin’s ex-husband. According to the French radio station Europe 1 the Putin family owns at least three properties in Biarritz.
Close friends and associates, as well as a former Russian spy, have been spotted in the southwestern city in recent years. French intelligence services are said to routinely run counter-espionage operations in the city.
The French real estate register shows that the owner of the villa in 2007 was indeed La Tikhonova and, after 2012, Kirill Shamalov, her by now ex. After marrying Katerina five years ago, and lucrative post-nuptial arrangements with the régime, Shamalov, 39, had become the youngest billionaire in Russia.
Putin’s association with Biarritz and environs are believed to have begun around 1996 with $100m from a mysteriously vanished fund set aside for St Petersburg’s hungry populace. It was the first major larceny perpetrated by the diminutive former KGB spook who went on to become president, and one of the wealthiest and most dangerous people in the world.
South-west of Biarritz, in Anglet, with its miles of sandy beaches and pine-forests, lives (on and off) the Russian president’s ex-wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnya. The huge villa’s official owner is her new husband, Arthur Ocheretny, at 43 some 20 years younger than her. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, activists painted the walls of the gates in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, and the legend “f…k Putin”.
That sinking feeling
The French authorities have recently seized a number of Russian assets, including a €108m yacht moored off the south of France belonging to the politician and oligarch Igor Sechin, an intimus of Putin who has developed a similar taste for showing off at sea.
None of the super-yachts is really safe any more unless, like Putin’s Graceful, now in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, they have been quickly moved out of EU jurisdiction. France and the rest of the EU have slapped heavy economic sanctions on Russia since the nightmare inflicted on Ukraine began in February.
London, infamously the world’s “laundromat” for cleaning both Russians’ money and their reputations, has begun imposing sanctions on them. Yesterday an eye-wateringly expensive mansion in the most fashionable part of London was invaded by squatters. It apparently belongs to Oleg Deripaska, 54, though he now risks his property becoming a long-term home to refugees.
An intimus of the Russian president, the billionaire Deripaska is a veteran of the 1990s “aluminium wars” in Russia, and one of seven oligarchs so far being with sanctions in the UK. He prudently acquired Cypriot nationality some time ago.