The week began quietly for the three super-yachts (total value: hundreds of millions of dollars) belonging to Roman Abramovich, Andrey Molchanov, and Vagit Alekperov (total net worth: around $36 billion, but who really knows) as they remained serenely docked at this Spanish port for refitting. But, The Guardian noted, “their owners could be forgiven for feeling a little nervous as western governments ponder who to target next in a threatened barrage of sanctions against Russia in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.”
Maybe more than a little nervous, considering a report in the Majorca Daily Bulletin that a Ukrainian man had been arrested for partially sinking a $7.7 million super-yacht belonging to Alexander Mijeev, C.E.O. of Rosoboronexport, a Russian military-weapons company. The man, who admitted he’d opened valves to flood the Lady Anastasia, which was docked at Port Adriano, Spain, said, “My boss is a criminal who sells weapons that kill the Ukrainian people.” On top of that, German authorities have seized the $600 million super-yacht Dilbar, owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, and The Guardian reports further that France has “seized a yacht linked to Rosneft boss Igor Sechin in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat.”
While the names of the three businessmen have not yet appeared on any sanctions lists, neither Abramovich (part owner of the Evraz mining company, and soon-to-be-ex-owner of the Chelsea soccer club) nor Molchanov (founder and major shareholder of the real-estate-construction conglomerate LSR Group) nor Alekperov (part owner of potential sanctions target Lukoil, and the Spartak Moscow soccer club) exactly fly under the radar. Likewise their floating palaces—that would hardly be the point, would it? By week’s end, the Alekperov vessel had reportedly left Barcelona for Montenegro, and other oligarch-owned super-yachts were said to be gathering like crows in the Maldives.
This luxury resort in the French Alps might be losing its nickname—“Courchevelski”—if the sudden, steep, post-Ukrainian-invasion decline in vacationing Russians doesn’t reverse itself. “Filippo Casaccia, co-owner of the Ski 5 Star school, said that instructors had seen cancellations from ‘very important guys from Russia’ in recent days,” reported The Times of London. He thinks they’ve canceled because they’re “at risk if [they are] here and also afraid of being spotted here.” The newspaper said that “hospitality staff described Russians frantically trying to make their way home on the private jets and helicopters that service the resort’s mountaintop airport.” It’s the view of one local bar owner that those will not be round trips: “The Russians here are finished.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s modest ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati River has for nearly a century remained a sacred, spiritual site, despite a visit in 2020 by Donald and Melania Trump. And while Sabarmati has been in need of restoration for years, a new proposal has led to accusations that the Modi government is “attempting to co-opt and politicise Gandhi’s legacy to suit their own Hindu nationalist agenda and turning the Sabarmati ashram into a flashy Gandhi ‘theme park’,” reported The Guardian.
“This is the first time any government has actively interfered and imposed their own vision on a Gandhi monument,” Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi told the newspaper. Six trusts currently look after the ashram. One of the trustees, Ashoke Chatterjee, said that plans were still in the early stages and that the government agreed that “the original ashram ethos and heritage buildings would remain preserved.” Though he also noted that the trustees had already nixed “some incredibly stupid ideas … one ridiculous notion after another,” including a proposed Gandhi hologram that would rise out of the Sabarmati fountains at night.
A Spanish rail company’s advertisement to recruit 30 female train drivers for a high-speed link between Mecca and Medina has drawn 28,000 applicants. Women have long been essentially rights-free in Saudi Arabia, but lately a few social reforms have been gingerly advanced—since 2018 women have been allowed to drive—and the BBC reports that their participation in the workforce “has almost doubled over the past five years to 33%, and more women than men entered the workforce in the first half of last year.” Before starting their jobs, the successful bullet-train-driver applicants will receive a year of paid training. Of course, that still leaves 27,970 women—and many more—who would like to work.
It’s entirely possible that some wealthy condominium shoppers, when looking for a high-rise to live in, will mention “sinking” and “tilting” as desirable amenities. We couldn’t really say. But if such people exist, they probably already know that the Millennium Tower on Mission Street is for them. Now more than ever, because, “despite multimillion-dollar efforts to correct it, [it] has developed yet another problem,” reported The Guardian. “The luxury tower, popular among star athletes and retired Google employees before the tilting issues were widely publicized, has sunk 18in since construction was completed in 2009, and has a 26in tilt at the top. Now, the engineer overseeing the retrofit of the tower has said the movement caused the formation of a one-inch gap between the building and a smaller 12-storey adjacent structure.”
Engineers said the building is not at risk, and that the gap is not likely to worsen. But despite all the reassuring talk of “further settlement … [being] arrested” and, even more optimistically, of measures that will “reverse the tilting” and “close the gap between the elevator thresholds,” a simple garden apartment somewhere else sounds pretty good right now.
It’s O.K. to hunt black rhinos again, South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries has announced. The rhinos’ numbers are up, apparently making them reducible again—by 10 each year. “Black rhino are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered,” reported The Guardian. “But numbers of black rhino in the wild have doubled to more than 5,000 from a historic low three decades ago.”
Ten leopards can be shot annually as well, and the ministry “also gave permission for more than 100 elephants to be killed, in keeping with international laws on the trade of endangered species,” said the newspaper. “Hunting is big business in South Africa, bringing in around 1.4bn rand ($92m) in 2019, the government said.” Proceeds from the hunting quotas are supposed to go to local impoverished communities.
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL