Court: Squatters Can Stay in Oligarch's Amsterdam Home

Group moved into sanctioned Russian tech billionaire's mansion last month
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2022 1:46 PM CST
Court: Squatters Can Stay in Oligarch's Amsterdam Home
Arkady Volozh attends an annual VTB Capital "Russia Calling!" Investment Forum in Moscow, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Squatters who moved into the Amsterdam mansion of a Russian tech billionaire last month can stay there for now, a Dutch court has decided. The five-story property in an upmarket neighborhood is owned by Arkady Volozh, co-founder of Yandex, Russia's biggest search engine, the Guardian reports. Heleen over de Linden, a lawyer for the seven squatters, said Dutch courts don't generally side with squatters, but Volozh's home is considered a frozen asset because he is under European Union sanctions for "materially or financially" supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The EU said in June that Yandex had promoted "state media and narratives in its search results" while removing articles critical of Russia.

Volozh, who stepped down as Yandex CEO after he was sanctioned, is banned from entering any EU countries on his Russian passport, though he acquired an EU passport from Malta in 2016. His lawyer, John Wolfs, argued at a hearing last week that Volozh was renovating the Amsterdam property because he wanted to live in it with his family when they spent time in the "beautiful city." De Linden argued that Volozh would be unlikely to spend any time in Amsterdam while sanctions prohibited him from carrying out any transactions. "He can’t pay for food or other services," she said. "He isn’t even allowed to pay for a taxi." Property experts testified that Volozh had apparently been renovating the property and planning to rent it out, which would have violated sanctions.

The squatters have hung banners from the front of the property reading "Against War and Capitalism." De Linden said that after the court ruled in their favor, the squatters sent her a bouquet of flowers and said they planned to live there for as long as possible, the CBC reports. She said the group moved into the property for two reasons. "They are against the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and they hope that Putin leaves power. And they are against all the oligarchs who are supporting the regime of Putin," she said. "And the second reason for them to squat the property was that there is a huge lack of living space in the Netherlands. And so when you look for something, it's very expensive." (More Russian oligarchs stories.)

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