Squatters Occupy Oligarch's London Mansion

Group said they wanted to offer 200-room building to Ukrainian refugees
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2022 4:15 PM CDT
Squatters Occupy Oligarch's London Mansion
Squatters display banners and a Ukrainian flag as they occupy a building which is believed to be owned by a Russian oligarch, in London, Monday, March 14, 2022.   (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

(Newser) – "You occupy Ukraine, we occupy you," an anarchist group said Monday after taking over a London mansion believed to belong to a Russian oligarch. Police later entered the Belgrave Square mansion and said no squatters remained inside, though they continued to negotiate with several people on the property's balcony who held up a Ukrainian flag and a sign saying, "This property has been liberated," reports Reuters. Records show the mansion is owned by aluminum and energy tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a Vladimir Putin ally who was placed on Britain's list of sanctioned Russian individuals last week, along with several other oligarchs.

"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 group said in a statement. One of the protesters told the BBC that there were around 200 rooms in the "ridiculous" mansion and said that they wanted the building to be used to house Ukrainian refugees. Another noted that government officials had proposed placing refugees in seized properties, and quipped: "We're doing the government's work for them and we're doing it for free, so I expect a significant rebate on my tax bill later on in April."

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said new laws would be required to put refugees in seized buildings. "Squatting in residential buildings is illegal, but we are working to identify the appropriate use for seized properties while owners are subject to sanctions," he said. In France, two activists were arrested after breaking into a house believed to be linked to Putin's daughter Katerina Tikhonova, Newsweek reports. Police said the two men changed the locks on the eight-bedroom Biarritz residence and had planned to offer it to Ukrainian refugees. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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