Vladimir Putin‘s superyacht has been pictured in all its glory, featuring the stunning finely furnished interiors, a spiral staircase and a swimming pool after being spotted ‘fleeing’ from a shipyard in Germany earlier this week, sparking speculation that it was trying to avoid being impounded by tough sanctions that would be imposed if Moscow invaded Ukraine.
The £73.2 million pleasure craft, named Graceful, was originally built by Sevmash in Russia – with interiors and exteriors envisioned by H2 Yacht Design – was moved to Germany for modifications.
The interiors include glossy sleek surfaces, soft cushioned sofas and deck chairs, and a posh white marble-styled bathroom.
What appears to be an office room contains multitudes of shelves for books and a desk fronted with a stunning painting of a sailing boat.
Exercise equipment can also be seen out on the deck, which is also lined with lounge-style seating and barstools.
But reports from German newspaper Bild suggest the superyacht escaped before repairs, which it said had been going on for months and included two new balconies, could be finished.
It added Putin’s 270ft vessel was ‘fleeing’ Germany amid the Ukraine crisis, with the newspaper claiming that the move ‘was obviously an escape for fear of being arrested’.
They referenced UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has threatened to introduce tough sanctions and told Putin and his allies they will ‘have nowhere to hide’ if Russia invades Kiev.
Putin’s vessel had been at the Blohm+Voss shipyard since 2021 to be cleaned and refurbished, with two new large balconies being fitted, reported German newspaper Kieler Nachrichten.
The newspaper published a photograph showing Graceful docked alongside the German Navy Corvette Emden at the shipyard before it set sail.
The superyacht features a indoor pool that can be transformed into a dance floor as well as a helipad, reported superyacht magazine Boote Exclusiv.
The Russian President’s yacht set sail from the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg on Monday and had arrived in the Russian enclave Kaliningrad by midday on Wednesday, according to the ship tracking website Marine Traffic.
The £73.2 million yacht, called ‘Graceful’, was seen sailing through the Kiel Canal a few hours after leaving the Port of Hamburg before heading out to the Baltic Sea.
Ukrainian paper DialogUA reported the yacht left the port in a haste, and had already passed the canal 13 hours after the news came out.
The decision to move Graceful towards Russia comes as tensions continue to escalate between the West and Moscow over Ukraine.
It was today reported that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine on Wednesday, according to a credible intelligence report, as US President Joe Biden urgently arranged a telephone call with Vladimir Putin in a bid to prevent war.
According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, the US Secret Service, CIA and the Pentagon are said to have received intel of an ‘exceptionally detailed’ invasion plan, scheduled for February 16.
The plans were passed on to Biden’s government and discussed in a series of secret briefings with NATO allies.
They are said to contain specific routes that might be taken by individual Russian units and detail what roles they might play in the conflict. Der Speigel suggests the US is mulling whether to make the plans public in a bid to undermine them.
But the West’s fears of a war were today branded ‘alarmist’ and a symptom of American ‘hysteria.’
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram: ‘The White House’s hysteria is more revealing than ever. The Anglo-Saxons need a war. At all cost.
‘The provocations, disinformation and the threats are their favourite method for resolving their own problems.’
The White House confirmed that Biden and Putin would discuss the crisis by phone today – just hours after thousands of Brits and Americans were warned to get out of Ukraine while they still can, as tensions reached boiling point.
The warning came amid fears that Putin could launch an ‘aerial bombardment’ of Kiev, risking a high civilian death toll.
Several other countries have now told their citizens to leave the country, including Belgium, who on Saturday warned there would be ‘no guarantee of evacuation’ following a ‘sudden deterioration’, as ‘communication links including internet and telephone lines could be seriously affected’ and air travel hampered.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken today warned that the crisis had reached a ‘pivotal moment’, adding that there continues to be ‘very troubling signs of Russian escalation’, including new forces arriving around Ukraine’s borders.
Washington and its NATO allies have said they will not send troops to protect Ukraine from a Russian attack, but would send arms to help Ukrainians defend themselves and respond with financial sanctions against Moscow.
But financial insiders fear that Putin may strike first and target European and US banks with a coordinated cyber attack to inflict economic chaos worldwide.
The European Central Bank has already told banks to conduct cyber war games to test their ability to fend off a potential attack, with financial regulators on high alert for a new strike.
The ECB, led by former French minister Christine Lagarde and which has oversight of Europe’s biggest lenders, has diverted its attention from regular scams to cyber attacks launched from Russia, an insider revealed.
They added security chiefs have told European and US banks to shore up their defences in preparation for a potential hack.
The New York Department of Financial Services also issued an alert to financial institutions in late January warning of cyber attacks, according to Thomson Reuters’ Regulatory Intelligence.
Earlier this year, multiple Ukrainian websites were hit by a cyber strike that left a warning to ‘be afraid and expect the worst’, as Russia amassed more than 100,000 troops near their borders.
Ukraine’s state security service SBU said it saw signs the attack was linked to hacker groups associated with Russian intelligence services.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the Russian state has anything to do with hacking around the world and said it is ready to cooperate with the United States and others to crack down on cyber crime.
Nonetheless, regulators in Europe are on high alert.
It comes as Germany’s gas stocks have fallen to a ‘worrying’ level, an economy ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday, as fears over a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia put further pressure on energy supplies.
‘Of course we are monitoring the situation of the storage levels and that is certainly worrying,’ said the spokeswoman during a regular government press conference, noting that stocks were now at 35-36 percent. A year ago, storage levels were at 82 percent of capacity.
The heightened fears come as Russia holds drills for landing troops and armoured vehicles in combat formation on annexed Crimea near mainland Ukraine.
The exercises involve the Orsk and Novocherkassk large amphibious assault ships.
Six additional landing ships are arriving in the Black Sea ostensibly for drills amid fears of a Russian invasion.
‘The exercise involved embarking the hardware and landing an amphibious assault on an unequipped coast,’ said a Black Sea source.
Crews of BTR-82A and BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers went into ‘combat formation’ after landing in an operation involving hundreds of troops at Kazachya Bay in Sevastopol.
The continued war games will do little to dampen the fears of an impending invasion, despite Emmanuel Macron saying on Tuesday he believed steps can be taken to de-escalate the crisis after meeting with Putin in the Kremlin.
And to make matters worse, the Kremlin has ridiculed Macron’s claims he struck a deal with Putin for a de-escalation of tensions.
The French president has positioned himself as a potential peacemaker and proudly boasted he had made ‘private promises’ with the Russian leader, which had not been sanctioned by NATO, after their meeting in Moscow on Monday.
Macron said Putin had assured him he ‘won’t be initiating an escalation’, before jetting off to Ukraine for a meeting with president Volodymyr Zelensky on the next leg of his diplomatic tour.
But Russia has now slapped Macron down, saying he does not have enough influence or authority to negotiate any deals unilaterally.
Britain is also said to be concerned about the Frenchman’s intervention, with government sources telling the Mail he ‘hasn’t consulted with anyone’ about his peace bid.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected that Putin had made any promises, saying: ‘This is wrong in its essence. Moscow and Paris couldn’t do any deals. It’s simply impossible.
‘France is a leading country in the EU, France is a member of NATO, but Paris is not the leader there. In this bloc, a very different country is in charge. So what deals can we talk about?’