The latest surprising chapter in the sanctions saga features the Dilbar megayacht, a 2016 Lurssen vessel that comes with a reported price tag of $600 million, an impressive resume of world records, and the much-coveted title of the world's largest by volume. Dilbar is an engineering wonder and a floating piece of art, a seemingly impossible challenge made possible by the luxury shipyard.
But Dilbar is also "home."
No one gives up their possessions without a fight, whatever the nature, duration, or ferocity of the "fight" or the context in which they've been deprived of their stuff. Whereas $600 million is an astounding price to pay for a boat and a mere fraction of the estimated worth of the boat's owner, that owner is not giving it up without a proper fight.
Uzbek oligarch Alisher Usmanov, accused of being a close ally of Putin and thus directly financing his war in Ukraine, is determined to fight to his last (figurative) breath to get his "boat" back. If you know anything of Dilbar, this comes as no surprise.
Usmanov was included on sanctions lists in early March 2022, shortly after the war in Ukraine started. At the time, Dilbar was in the dry dock with Lurssen in Germany to undergo repairs and routine maintenance. Even if Usmanov had thought of sailing it to safer, friendlier waters, he never got the chance to: German authorities first froze the vessel until they determined ownership and then proceeded to seize it.
In the months that followed, Dilbar was the main character in its own drama, and it's still playing out as we speak. The ship was raided, as was a nearby storage unit that contained at least $5 million in artworks that had been removed from the ship, and other properties owned by Usmanov. Investigators were looking for proof of tax evasion, which Usmanov had also been accused of.
The billionaire was among the first sanctioned oligarchs to appeal the seizure and ask for sanctions to be lifted, though both attempts proved unsuccessful. It probably didn't help that he initially claimed the gigantic vessel belonged to his sister, who, at the time, had not yet been sanctioned.
Earlier this month, Usmanov filed a 67-page complaint with Federal Constitutional Court, arguing that the seizure violated his human and constitutional rights, and the inviolability of his home. His "home" is Dilbar, the $600 million megayacht Lurssen built for him as a very special, fully custom, and incredibly opulent project.
Usmanov is also arguing against the sanctions on himself, rejecting claims that he is President Putin's ally or straw man. An attorney says for one local publication that they're also exploring the option of a press lawsuit against the Council of the European Union for including him on the sanctions lists.
Legal shenanigans aside, whatever outcome this lawsuit has will influence the next move of other sanctioned oligarchs – owners of superyachts now bobbing away in foreign marinas, barred from leaving.
International sanctions against Russian oligarchs have not had the expected effect but only seem to have caused more problems for people not even remotely involved (or interested) in the Russo-Ukrainian war. These seized floating palaces are now being paid for out of taxpayers' money because authorities are obligated to keep them in tip-top condition. For Dilbar only, the German taxpayer has already paid a total of about $60 million for the year it has spent under arrest.
Dilbar, a sum of world records (probably) worth fighting for
With an estimated net worth of $14.4 billion, Usmanov could buy himself another boat, though a $600 million loss would still sting. But Dilbar is more than a fancy, custom megayacht he likes to call "home" every once in a while, even when he's not actually living on it.
Dilbar is a spectacular naval achievement, even if also a crass display of wealth. At 156 meters (511.8 feet) in total length, it offers an interior volume of 15,917 GT, which makes it the largest vessel by volume in the world and puts it ahead of longer megayachts.
Amenities are out of this world, including two helipads, one of which has a hangar with an H175 helicopter always on standby, the biggest pool in the world ever installed on a yacht, an oversize garden for the exclusive use of those who might miss dry land, and thematic rooms to suit a variety of preferences, moods, and purposes. Considering that Dilbar can accommodate a maximum of 120 people (96 of whom are crew members), it makes sense to create spaces as varied as possible.
The exterior design is by Espen Oino on a Lurssen naval architecture, with Winch Design interiors. Despite Dilbar's size and the incredible attention it's been generating since delivery in 2016, it's never been shown to the public in full and remains a closely-guarded secret.
Propulsion is diesel-electric, and the 30,000 KW power plant is the most powerful to have ever been fitted on a superyacht. Add to that the fact that this monster of a vessel is capable of a brisk 22.5-knot (26-mph/42-kph) maximum speed, and you're probably beginning to see why Usmanov is hellbent on getting it back.