The sacred right of property

For many years, Russian oligarchs enjoyed life in Italy, Germany, France, Great Britain, and other countries of Western Europe. The money stolen from the people went for villas, vineyards, huge mansions in the middle of London and much more. The life of the oligarchs resembled the luxurious times of the monarchs of the century before last. With the outbreak of war in Ukraine, there was a brief period when it seemed that the Russian oligarchs were approaching the abyss. Here and there came news of the seizure of the property of Putin’s friends. But the wave of enthusiasm from European politicians quickly faded. Yes, 46 of the 200 richest Russians have been put on the sanctions lists, but these are in turn 154 rich people who continue to enjoy their privileges while the Ukrainian people are fighting Putin’s ghouls.

Why is this happening? After all, European politicians have been so heroically willing to fight the influence of Russian capital. Many loud but empty speeches later we are in a situation where even the sanctioned individuals have not lost much since the war began. Did the oligarchs turn out to be such cunning capitalists that they were able to deceive Western nations?

Hardly.

How to avoid sanctions?

The fact is that the sanctions situation is not new to many Belarusians. Back in 2020 and 2021, when European politicians were screaming about crushing sanctions against Lukashenko, many supporters of the dictator were able to avoid serious consequences by simple formalities. Rewrite the ownership of this or that property to a third person and it suddenly becomes invisible to the entire state system.

Or so it looks at first glance. German, British or French bureaucrats are not so stupid as not to understand where and why the capital of this or that rich man has gone. Try the same tax avoidance scheme on a relatively small scale and you are likely to have problems pretty quickly.

The bottom line is that contrary to political statements, European politicians are not interested in a complete break-up of the oligarchs. And this has to do with capitalism itself, which has long been determining the direction of political development in this or that country in the West. The logic is quite simple: in addition to Russian capital in Europe there are enough dubious property owners, whose money is often covered with a thick layer of blood. No matter what part of the world we are talking about – Eastern Europe, regions of Africa or Asia, South America – capitalists and dictators love the luxury of London, Paris or Barcelona.

So, if the European political elites suddenly turn on their conscience and really seize large amounts of property from the Russian oligarchs, the sheikhs in the Arab Emirates or the capitalist communists in China will feel threatened and start withdrawing this very capital. For capitalism, this dynamic is extremely dangerous, because it can lead to serious market consequences. So we find ourselves in a situation where one can symbolically confiscate some of the property of the oligarchs and turn a blind eye to most of the property held by obscure firms or friends and acquaintances.

One can be outraged by this state of affairs for a long time, but the situation with the rich in Europe has existed for years. And moreover, the European politicians create conditions for attraction of such dirty capital. It is possible to launder money in London for foreign capital with just one transfer, and property can be bought without a real name (https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/london-real-estate-oligarchs-1.4591729). In Germany, local authorities refuse to provide property lists of Russian oligarchs citing the inability to provide such information for technical reasons – the same reasons that have made Germany one of the most attractive countries for property ownership by the super-rich.

It is also interesting that the EU is willing to spend billions to combat so-called illegal migration, build huge fences against refugees, and invest in surveillance systems on ordinary citizens, but when it comes to the property of the super-rich, the state apparatus has no resources or time to collect this information.

Shall we seize everything and divide it all?

Fortunately, there are journalists who are willing to dig up information about Russian property without government funding. Lists of mansions, yachts, and other property are updated every day. It would seem, look at the lists and take everything these same journalists have found. But politicians are in no hurry to act, including for the reasons mentioned above.

Grassroots activists are being mobilized to fight the oligarchs instead of politicians. In Germany, Austria, and Great Britain, local anarchists have begun seizing the property of Russian oligarchs in order to use it for grassroots projects. From housing Ukrainian refugees to creating neighborhood social centers. And such seizures have found widespread support in society…

In turn, the state has given its assessment of such an initiative by forcibly evicting the anarchists and criminal prosecutions. This shows that the authorities of Western countries are not only not ready to seize the property of these very oligarchs, but moreover, they are ready to protect it with the help of the notorious state right to violence.

This is quite a clear message for society, which, on the one hand, continues to be fed the successful history of supporting the Ukrainian people in the war with Russia, but, on the other hand, behind closed doors is trying to maintain the very status quo that led to the war.

And as long as the capital of the oligarchs and politicians responsible for this war is protected not only by Putin, but also by the European political system, we cannot really expect any serious political change. Eastern Europe suffers not only from Putin, but from all his friends and allies. It is not Putin who is fighting this war, but the entire political and economic elite of the Russian Federation. And only with the collapse of the whole system will the empire itself fall.

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