Squatters break into Russian oligarch’s mansion to house refugees

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Squatters broke into a central London mansion apparently owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and declared that it should house refugees.

At least five people were occupying the property in Belgrave Square since early morning on Monday 14 March.

Bethany Reilly from the Morning Star Online posted updates via Twitter:

“Refugees welcome”

The squatters call themselves the London Mahknovists. They’re named after Nestor Makhno, who led an anarchist force that attempted to form a stateless society in Ukraine during the Russian Revolution of 1917-1923.

The building was cordoned off and surrounded by police officers and vehicles.

Three men stood on the balcony above the street. They played music, waved and danced next to signs which read “This property has been liberated” and “Putin go f*** yourself”.

They all wore dark clothes and face coverings. And one of the men told reporters there are five of them inside the mansion, but they have a “way bigger group coming”.

He added that they broke into the property at around 1am. “We stay here until Putin stops the war,” one man said. He continued:

We have opened the building to house Ukrainian refugees and refugees from all nations.

Also, he said the owner of the building “wants to destroy Ukraine homes”, adding:

He supported the wars. This home belongs to Ukrainian refugees. There are families dying. Their land has gone. This is the least we can do.

They said the UK government has “failed” to properly respond to the invasion, adding:

The same money that funds the Russia war machine funds the Conservative Party.

Talking about finding housing for refugees, one of them said:

Priti Patel, do not worry. We did your job. Refugees welcome.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
The squatters said they had ‘liberated’ the building to house Ukrainian refugees (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Moreover, the group also criticised the police, comparing them to those arresting protesters in Russia.

Asked how they got into the property, one joked, “Squatters’ magic”.

One man said that inside the mansion “there is a lot of rooms. There is so much stuff that a normal human being shouldn’t have”.

Oleg Deripaska

Deripaska is an industrialist who has had close links with the British political establishment. And he was targeted with sanctions by the government in the week beginning 7 March.

He’s been described as “a prominent Russian businessman and pro-Kremlin oligarch”. Moreover, he’s reportedly “closely associated” with both the Russian government and president Vladimir Putin.

His wealth is estimated to be £2.3bn and he has a multimillion-pound property portfolio in the UK. According to a 2007 High Court judgment, this includes the house at 5 Belgrave Square which the squatters targeted. Records indicate the property hasn’t changed hands since and is owned by an offshore British Virgin Islands company.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group watch over the squatters (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Eviction

According to Reilly, riot police cracked open the front door and a forklift was used to get protesters off the balcony:

The squatters, meanwhile, resisted as best they could:

Met Police response

A Metropolitan Police statement said:

Police were called shortly after 01.00 hours on Monday 14 March to a residential property in Belgrave Square, SW1.

Officers attended and found that a number of people had gained entry and hung banners from upstairs windows.

Officers remain at the location.

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