Red see! Billionaire’s yacht with ties to Vladimir Putin anchored in Gravesend Bay

Yacht-off Smirnoff: This 371-foot yacht, owned by a Russian billionaire whose best friend and business partner is a confidant to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been anchored in Gravesend Bay for more than a month — and comes complete with a 65-person crew, helicopter, aquarium, and speedboat.
Community News Group / Matthew John

It’s the tsar of the sea!

A yacht owned by a Russian billionaire whose best friend and business partner is a confidant to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been anchored in Gravesend Bay for more than a month — and floated there throughout President Trump’s first visit to the city since taking office.

The vessel, Le Grand Bleu, was gifted to its Russian-born owner Eugene Shvidler — who made his fortune in oil during the privatization of Russian industry and is worth $1.28 billion — in 2006 by oligarch and pal to Putin, Roman Abramovich, who is ranked at 139 in Forbes 2017 billionaire list and is nearly worth a whopping $9 billion.

It’s unclear if Shvidler, who became a U.S. citizen in 1994, is on a solo voyage or with his Russian tycoon buddy, who is a common sight in New York where he plans to build a Manhattan mega-mansion and made headlines in 2013 when he cruised up the Hudson in his own James Bond-esque vessel.

Abramovich was reportedly the first person to recommend Putin in the late 1990s as a successor to then-president Boris Yeltsin. He interviewed candidates for the Kremlin’s first cabinet and served for more than seven years as governor of the remote region of Chukotka. His relationship with Putin was described as “a shadowy force to act against his enemies behind the scenes,” in a 2004 biography.

The power broker has ties to the Trump family in part through his fashion designer wife — she was famously photographed sitting on a chair the shape of a bound black woman in 2014 — who is friends with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and was invited to Trump’s inauguration as Ivanka Trump’s guest.

Kusher and Abramovich raised eyebrows when they both happened to vacation in Colorado the same week, just after Kushner agreed to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Trump campaign links to Russia. There is no evidence that the pair met.

But it’s worth noting that the Russian industrialist stands to profit from the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline — which even though the president pledged to use American steel — will draw on metal in Canada stockpiled by a company in which Abramovich owns a significant stake.

Abramovich first struck it big with his pal Shvidler and the Le Grand Bleu was reportedly a thank you, recognizing his hard work at the investment company they run together. Shvidler is known as a ruthless negotiator and the Daily Mail calls him “the ‘bad cop’ to Roman’s ‘good cop.’ ”

At 371-feet the sprawling vessel is roughly the length of a football field and comes complete with a 65-person crew, helicopter, aquarium, and speedboat. The ship sailed from Florida on April 13 and on April 16 cast anchor in Gravesend Bay, where it has remained since, according to data from Marine Traffic, a global ship tracking service.

Shvidler and Abramovich could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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