The Dossier discovered two superyachts used by Vladimir Putin and his entourage. This is the 71-meter Victoria and her accompanying 38-meter Orion boat. Victoria was built at the shipyards of the Sevmash military plant along with the Graceful boat. It is currently being repaired at a Turkish shipyard, which prepares ships for the Turkish navy, a NATO member.
Istanbul's Tuzla port is not suitable for passenger ships. There are marinas to the east and west, but the main water area is occupied by shipyards where bulk carriers and oil tankers are repaired, and nearby there are docks where warships for the Turkish fleet are built. Several captains of small pleasure boats refuse to enter these waters for fear of the coast guard. Only one agrees, and on his boat on a morning in early November, Dossier correspondents depart from a pier a couple of nautical miles southeast of Tuzla.
The journey takes about an hour. The ship slowly circles two warships maneuvering nearby and the territory of the maritime academy, founded in 1773, and enters the bay. Along the perimeter there are massive ships, obscuring the shore, but next to the shipyard of the Istanbul company Desan they seem to be located especially densely: the bulk carriers Algoma Vision and Ocean Pearl and the container ship Medkon Mira almost completely block two hangars. Only a small part of the left building is visible from the water. Judging by satellite images, it was built quite recently - in May-June 2023. 100m long, 19m wide, it is ideal for servicing superyachts. It is almost impossible to see the inside of the building, but already on the shore, studying the footage, Dossier correspondents discover that the footage showed a yacht standing inside - or rather, part of its stern with characteristic stripes.
This is the 71-meter Victoria, the flagship of Vladimir Putin's Black Sea flotilla. On October 21, Victoria left Sochi and two days later moored west of the shipyard in Istanbul. On the morning of October 25, the ship moved to the docks, turned off the transmitter (AIS) and stopped appearing on maps of specialized services.
To get a better look at the yacht, you have to use a drone. A suitable launch site is a vacant lot two kilometers in a straight line across the bay. It is possible to remove the boat only on the fourth attempt: either the workers close the hangar gate, or the connection with the quadcopter is lost. Finally, Dossier manages to lower the drone to the desired height and hover almost over the heads of the shipyard employees. From this angle, the distinctive feature of the ship is visible - a large letter V.
Superyacht is a vague term. Typically, this class includes boats with a length of 24–30 meters, sometimes megayachts and gigayachts are additionally distinguished - from 70 meters and from 90 meters in length, respectively. Such vessels can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, with annual maintenance costing millions more. The larger the yacht, the more attention it attracts, the more difficult it is to repair and the harder it is to hide or resell. Such superyachts are in demand among Russian officials and oligarchs, but they are not produced in Russia - orders are mainly fulfilled by European shipyards.
At the beginning of his second presidential term, Vladimir Putin decided to reverse this trend, says Dossier’s interlocutor, who worked with Putin in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Yacht building was carried out by the Sevmash military plant, a famous enterprise whose main products are nuclear submarines, including modern IV generation projects Yasen and Borey. It is not known for certain why the president decided to take such a step. He may have hoped to keep his love of giant ships a secret, but those plans failed.
Sevmash was supposed to design two yachts. The work was delayed, one of the boats was broken and grounded, the second was almost lost due to problems with financing. In 2016, Sevmash refused civil orders, which must have been not without relief. Two yachts of Project A-1331 were the only ones produced by the military shipyard. The first is Victoria, which began to be prepared in 2005. A year later, work began on the second, now world-famous Graceful.
Graceful was launched only in 2014: when the hull was to be towed from Severodvinsk to Hamburg in 2010 to complete the work, the ship ran aground off the coast of Norway, and the German company Blohm + Voss had to not only complete the construction of the ship, but also overhaul it. The approximate cost is $100 million, the construction was paid for by the Panamanian offshore Mischositos Investment, and its subsidiary, Olneil Assets Corp (British Virgin Islands), is indicated in the documents as the customer and first owner. The formal beneficiary of the legal entities is Putin’s childhood friend Pyotr Kolbin. The companies themselves were involved in a scheme involving the resale of shares in the Yamal LNG project, which allowed Putin to receive $1.1 billion. The companies were managed by Gennady Timchenko’s lawyers.
In the early 1990s, Timchenko was involved in the export of petroleum products. At the same time, he met Putin, who worked in the mayor’s office of St. Petersburg, and became one of his closest friends. “Timchenko traveled to Finland and danced around with Putin there, skiing with him in Austria. In general, he worked his ass off: he could drink more, and he could do it every day without any visible damage to his health,” recalls an acquaintance of Timchenko. Good relations with Putin became the key to the businessman’s well-being.
It is not known whether Timchenko was interested in yachts in the 2000s, but he had an acquaintance who became interested in them back in the 1990s, Sergei Maslov. He worked at Surgutneftegaz, headed subsidiaries of Lukoil, in the early 2000s he became president of Transnefteproduct (a Transneft structure), and since 2013 he has headed the Development Corporation. The businessman is a big fan of boats, his friend says. Maslov started working on them back in the 1990s, and in 2008 he made headlines when he brought a small yacht to the Courchevel ski resort by land - a wedding gift for his daughter. Maslov was likely considered among Russian high-ranking officials and businessmen to be a great expert on maritime issues, since he was among the people entrusted with organizing the Syrian Express, a fleet that delivered military supplies and equipment to Syria for the Russian army. Another businessman who took part in the creation of the “express” is Yevgeny Prigozhin.
It was Maslov’s structures that ordered the 71-meter Victoria boat from Sevmash. It was also intended for Putin, say two Dossier interlocutors familiar with the progress of the work.
Russian-Turkish unfinished construction
Graceful took 8 years to build, which is a significant period of time for a superyacht. Victoria was built in 14 years. Initially, representatives of Sevmash confidently stated that the construction of yachts is not much different from the creation of nuclear submarines - only for submarines “you need to weld metal sheets 25-30 cm thick, and for a yacht - much thinner.” But in 2008, work on Victoria was suspended and resumed in November 2013.
The contract with Sevmash was concluded by Maslov’s company Julesburg Corp from the British Virgin Islands. In Russia, the work was controlled by the Baltika company (the owners are Maslov’s relatives), the ship was received by its representatives Ivan Vasiliev and Valery Tsyplukhin in 2013. Julesburg Corp received loans from Maslov’s Luxembourg legal entity SVM Holding, and SVM Holding received loans from the structures of Gennady Timchenko.
At the end of 2013, Sevmash reported successful testing. Victoria was delivered to Italy, but the ISA Yachts shipyard never started work, and in 2015 the ship was transported to Turkey. Judging by the correspondence between Maslov’s employees and contractors, around 2014 the businessman stopped paying his bills. Maslov insisted that he was dissatisfied with the quality of the order. At the same time, the entrepreneur insisted that Victoria was not his yacht: “I’m just now helping a close friend finish building a yacht. I do yacht building as a hobby. And I advise many people who build yachts.” Maslov’s close friend is Gennady Timchenko. As a result, the vessel was recorded on its structure.
The delay in the construction of Victoria became a big problem for Timchenko, and in order to justify the president’s trust, he began preparing another superyacht for Putin - the 140-meter Scheherazade, says an acquaintance of the businessman. The construction contract was signed on December 30, 2014, and Timchenko collected money for the ship from Russian oligarchs.
Against the backdrop of these events, Maslov was sent into custody in the fall of 2016 in the case of the theft of 1 billion rubles from the Narodny Kredit bank and a house in Arkhangelskoye near Moscow worth about $100 million was arrested. A yacht of comparable value was not of interest to the investigation, and Maslov spent only a little time in the detention center for more than a month and was released at the end of November, since law enforcement agencies decided to withdraw from the court the petition to extend the arrest. Maslov was released on his own recognizance, allowed to live in Moscow, and upon first request he had to come to the investigator in Rostov-on-Don. A year later the case was closed. The persecution cost Maslov his post in the Development Corporation; he now works in structures associated with Timchenko.
The Victoria yacht was completed at the AES Yachts shipyard; work was completed on July 24, 2019. The ship can carry 28 people, but usually carries 11–15 crew and up to six passengers. The cost of the vessel, indicated in the customs declaration in 2019, is $50.1 million. The same document describes the main characteristics of the ship, including a design feature: there are two master cabins on board. There are the same number of master cabins on the Graceful yacht, and the presidential residences always have two separate bedrooms: for the owner and for the hostess.
“Dossier” studied the lists of the ship’s crew. Thus, sailor Alexey Makarov previously worked on another Putin boat - Shellest. The brother of flight attendant Inna Ermak is an engineer, a graduate of the FSO Academy Alexander Ermak, he is a member of the Scheherazade and Graceful teams. And the first captain of Victoria is Alexey Alekseev, now he commands the yacht Universe of Dmitry Medvedev.
The owner of the vessel is the Paer company, the manager is Fazar-Invest. Both companies are related to each other and are part of the group of legal entities of Gennady Timchenko. The structures are financed through the Vesta organization; through it, for example, money goes for Timchenko’s gas project in Uzbekistan. In total, Fazar-Invest received 1.86 billion rubles since 2020. This money was also used for expensive purchases for passengers: for example, four napkin rings cost 76.5 thousand rubles, beach towels - 216 thousand rubles, chess - 146 thousand rubles, backgammon - 321 thousand rubles. There is also a television on board with a connected package of channels for children.
Victoria is based in Sochi and periodically reaches Cape Idokopas, where Vladimir Putin’s palace is located. Directly next to the cape, the ship turns off AIS and disappears from radar. In the summer of 2021, the ship left Sochi and reached Crimea. On this trip, the yacht was accompanied by a 38.5-meter Orion boat. It was produced in 2009 in Viareggio, Italy.
Fazar-Invest manages two more vessels.
The Shtandart motor ship is registered to the structures of billionaires Iskandar Makhmudov and Andrey Bokarev, but the head of Gazprom, Alexey Miller, also uses it. Makhmudov and Bokarev transferred, including from personal accounts, almost 390 million rubles for the maintenance of the ship since 2020.
The 26-meter yacht “Valeria” was built in 2001. The owner of "Valeria" is the company "Transport Leasing", which is 99% owned by Timchenko's structures, the share is recorded in the company "Transoil", which was founded by Gennady Timchenko ×, and 1% - the former wife of the vice-mayor of Moscow Tatyana Liksutova, the share is recorded in the company " WorldWide Invest AS", which is owned by the Estonian company Liksutova Top Property ×. Servicing Victoria has cost 14 million rubles since 2020.
It’s not so easy to hide a superyacht in Sochi, but Vladimir Putin’s entourage isn’t even trying. Thus, “Dossier” discovered Victoria in the photo in the account of Natalya Belugina, a rhythmic gymnast and choreographer-director of the Alina festival, which is annually organized by Alina Kabaeva. Belugina is a friend of the Olympic champion; they periodically travel together. Kabaeva and her relatives really use this vessel, says Dossier’s interlocutor, who is familiar with the athlete.
Alina Kabaeva has been using the planes of Vladimir Putin’s entourage and the residences of the head of state for many years, and has also been on board the Scheherazade, the president’s friends gave the Olympic champion and her relatives several expensive houses and apartments, the athlete lived in the mansion of Putin’s friend Gennady Timchenko in Geneva, her career was taken care of in the administration of the Russian leader. Since at least 2011, Kabaeva has not hidden her engagement ring. At the same time, the Kremlin has repeatedly denied the connection between Putin and Kabaeva, their few photographs together were taken at official receptions in the 2000s, in recent years they have not appeared in public together, and all that is known about their children is that Kabaeva gave birth in 2015, and then in 2019.
After the war began, Scheherazade was seized in Italy, and Victoria is now the largest Putin-linked yacht in the Black Sea. The composition of the same “southern flotilla” includes:
The 54-meter yacht “Chaika” (previous name “Sirius”), worth €30 million, is the only vessel that is on the balance sheet of the presidential administration. On board the Chaika, Putin met with Alexander Lukashenko in May 2021.
46-meter yacht Shellest. It costs approximately $23.9 million and is registered with the non-profit partnership Revival of Maritime Traditions. It was founded by partners of Putin’s friend Yuri Kovalchuk in Rossiya Bank. Shellest is used to get to Putin's palace at Cape Idokopas; since November 2022, the ship has been sailing between Sochi and Gelendzhik.
In the Baltic Sea, Putin's main yacht is Graceful. Shortly before the invasion of Ukraine, the boat was urgently evacuated from Germany, where it was undergoing annual maintenance, and transported to Kaliningrad. The ship was repaired at the Yantar shipyard until September 2022, then Graceful spent a month in St. Petersburg and returned to Kaliningrad for the winter. In the summer of 2023, the ship was in St. Petersburg at the Morskoy Facade port.
Graceful is part of the “northern flotilla”, which also includes:
37-meter Aldoga, built in Viareggio in 2009. The vessel is registered to the Pulse company of Svetlana Krivonogikh (she had a daughter in 2003, presumably with Vladimir Putin), co-owner of Rossiya Bank. The exact cost of the yacht is unknown; similar ships will cost $14–16 million.
The 32-meter Nega, built in 2013 by the British company Princess Yachts. Cost: $12.2 million. The owner of the boat is the Helios company, a subsidiary of the non-profit partnership “Revival of Marine Traditions”, which was established by the partners of Yuri Kovalchuk. The yacht was imported to Russia in 2013 by the Bawaria Group from the British Virgin Islands.
In 2015, Bawaria Group imported a Brizo 46 model boat to Russia worth just under $1.2 million. The vessel was first delivered to the Finnish city of Porvoo, where Brizo 46 was captured by photographers. The customs materials indicate the Unison company, a structure of Yuri Kovalchuk, as the recipient of the boat. The boat is registered to Graceful.
The Unison company, with the help of which the boat for Graceful was imported to Russia, is also used to accommodate the president’s ships. In mid-January 2022, the Ministry of Defense transferred two land plots to this company in the city of Lomonosov on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. Four months later, the land was transferred to the non-profit partnership Invest. The founder of Invest is the Association “Development of the Effective Investment Market”, which was founded in 2015 by Gennady Timchenko and Petr Kolbin.
The harbor in Lomonosov is used by ships of the Baltic Fleet, so all ships in the bay are protected from the sea. The pier became a haven for two of Putin’s yachts at once. In the summer of 2022, the oldest presidential boat was located there - the 57-meter Olympia built in 2002. The vessel, worth $37 million, was presented to the president by Roman Abramovich; it is registered offshore in the Cayman Islands by Ironstone Marine Investments.
In the fall of 2022, Olympia was replaced by Graceful, the Dossier found out by studying ship documents and satellite images. The president's yacht called at Lomonosov on September 26 and stayed there until October 23, before visiting St. Petersburg and from there heading to Kaliningrad for the winter. There is no special equipment at the pier, but the area has been cleared of debris and parking has been arranged, probably for the cars of crew members and maintenance personnel. A day after Graceful left the canal, the Dossier discovered a large tent on the shore: a car could drive inside and unload passengers, who would have the opportunity to board unnoticed. Such precautions are not without meaning. Although the location is secluded, the harbor is open to other ships, tankers moor on the other side of the canal, and the marina attracts fishermen and warship watchers.
The Unison company not only manages the presidential boat Brizo 46 and the berth in Lomonosov, but also owns the famous brig “Russia” with scarlet sails. The sailboat is a symbol of the alumni holiday, which takes place annually in St. Petersburg. On other days, the ship can be found at the Yuri Kovalchuk yacht club.
Vladimir Putin was not photographed vacationing on board Victoria, so there is no direct documentary evidence that this is his ship. But, as in the case of other presidential yachts, there is a lot of indirect evidence: this is a specially selected crew, and the ship’s route, which runs next to the palace of the head of state, and the formal owner, and the unusual history of construction. The Dossier’s interlocutor, who is familiar with the progress of work on the boat, has no doubt that only the Russian leader could have ordered the yacht from a military plant that produces nuclear submarines. Finally, even Victoria’s agent is the same as that of the now seized yacht Scheherazade.
Ships linked to Putin have one port agent. In the Baltic ports, since 2022, these functions have been performed by Inflot Worldwide, which services Graceful and Aldoga. Usually the company deals with completely different vessels - mainly bulk carriers, icebreakers, tugs, pilot ships and hydrographic ships. The agent in the Black Sea is Orca Group, the organization services the yacht Victoria, and previously handled Scheherazade.
Graceful and Victoria left their main moorings simultaneously on October 21, 2023. The first yacht went for servicing to Kaliningrad at the Yantar plant, the second to the Desan shipyard in Istanbul. A Turkish company is a logical choice for repairs if there is a risk that the ship may fall under sanctions and be arrested. But Desan is not an ordinary company. It was founded in 1978, now belongs to the Kaptanoglu group and deals not only with civilian orders, but also builds warships for Turkey, a NATO member, and has also received permission from the North Atlantic Alliance to work with classified data.
Becoming a shipyard client is not easy. The Dossier correspondent, under the guise of a representative of an unnamed Russian organization, tried to repair a 40-meter Princess yacht, launched in 2009, at the Tuzla docks. According to legend, the ship is registered to a legal entity, but the real owner is a businessman from Russia who prefers anonymity, who is not yet included in the sanctions lists, but fears that he may fall under restrictions. The ship would normally have been repaired elsewhere, but the contractor unexpectedly went bankrupt and the ship now urgently requires a shipyard for annual maintenance. Despite an exhaustive, including technical, description of the upcoming work, Desan did not answer questions.