January 27, 2023

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Prison in Tromso – here the son of a billionaire returned

TROMSØ (VG) thinks a trial against him is a waste of time. Now Andrei Yakunin (47) is preparing for a new pier tour – with a yacht cruise in the fjords outside Tromsø.

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The 88-foot (27-meter) sailboat “Firebird” attracts attention as it moored off Stortorget in Tromso – along with more modest boats.

The mast on the sailboat is 38 meters high – too tall to sail under the nearby Tromsø Bridge.

– Not a spy

VG joined – just a few days before the Russian-British Andrei Yakunin again appeared in court in connection with the appeal case.

– Are you a spy?

The 47-year-old does not reply.

– And you’re also not a James Bond villain?

– I hope not. I’m not Elon Musk either, but maybe someday, says Yakunin.

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Space: Every corner of the boat – which is equipped for Arctic expeditions – is in use.

The 47-year-old is charged Hobby drone pto Svalbard, thus breaching the sanctions regulations that were introduced as a response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Regarding the case in the district court, the prosecution confirmed this They were not guides To say that Yakunin engaged in any form of espionage or acted on behalf of intelligence. In short, the issue was how to interpret the sanctions regulations.

On October 17th in Hammerfest last year, the police took action against the 47-year-old. His boat “Firebird” was searched, and Yakunen was sent to prison in Tromso.

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Arrested in Hammerfest

The police still have two drones.

– I was on a mountain trip when the police searched my boat. And I got a call from my master – Andy Lees – that the police were on board. He asked me if I could come down as soon as possible. I always cooperate with local authorities, so of course I did it right away, Yakunin told VG.

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He ended up being arrested and later sent to Tromsø. In total, he was detained for more than six weeks.

– Do you understand how frustrating that was? I’d love to be in Tromso, but it turned out the wrong way, he says, referring to the time he spent on the reservation.

– Look how beautiful nature is here, even on a gray weather day. Then you understand why I have to clean this up, Yakunin says and points to the fjord.

Wind in the Sails: On the sea off Tromsø, Yakunin gets good speed and wind in the sails. He is hoping for the same momentum when he meets the state’s attorney in Tromsø court this week.

The 47-year-old used his time behind bars to study Italian. He himself currently lives in Italy where he is working on converting an old castle into a luxury resort.

You spend a lot of time alone in confinement. Then you have to be a good friend to yourself. And I think “us” is fine, says Yakunin.

He says he made the days go by by making sure there were consistent routines.

Andymore: Carly Im’s job on the boat is to make sure that the journalists who join the sailing excursion are safe afterward. She jokingly calls us little ducklings.

safety first

Before departure, VG receives a comprehensive safety briefing on the rules that apply on board. On our side, the crew points out.

There are ropes and winches – and Yakunen would like us to have as many toes when we got off the boat as when we got on board.

– Otherwise, you will be like me, says Yakunin, showing one hand that lost a little finger after a mountain-climbing accident.

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Watch out: Russian-British Andrey Yakunin prefers our VG envoys to have as many fingers when we get off the boat as when we get on board. Here is what happened after a mountain climbing accident.

Previously, he rented the boat for €45,000 per week (NOK 480,000). But even if you have money at your disposal, you’ll probably have to look far for a boat trip with the now-famous ‘Firebird’.

Last year it was registered as privately owned, and is no longer available for rent.

Yakunin has two full-time employees on board, and sails with a crew that can vary from two to five people depending on how demanding the trip is.

The family is worried

– How did your wife and children react when they heard that you had been arrested in Norway?

– They were, of course, very worried. I don’t think the prison impression in Hollywood films helps here. It was important for them to contact me, says Yakunin, and I spent the time calming them down.

He says his father – Vladimir Yakunen, 74 – was also worried when he heard his son was imprisoned in Norway.

Any parent would probably be concerned. But he knows I’ve done well in tough situations before, so he knows I’ll be fine.

Vladimir Yakunin, has been part of President Putin’s inner circle for many years. The now 74-year-old oligarch is a Russian businessman and former KGB agent.

As the former head of the Russian Railways network, Vladimir Yakunin was responsible for about 1 million employees and transported 1 billion passengers annually.

Famous Dad: At the time of writing, the British have sanctioned Andrei Yakunin’s father, Vladimir Yakunin (74), who has a background as one of the most powerful figures in Russia. He previously managed the country’s railway network.

At the time of writing, the British government has imposed sanctions on Fr. But not against his son, Andre, who holds a British passport – and has been living in London for several years.

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Wasn’t it safer to be in a dungeon in Tromsø than to go out on an expedition or climb the mountains?

– At least my mother thought so, the 47-year-old answered jokingly.

Celebrate freedom with steak

He says the first thing he did when he was released from Tromso Prison was to fly to London, where he celebrated with the children.

We went to a real steak house and ate real steak. Then I went back to Italy, and then there were a lot of unanswered emails to deal with, he reveals.

After Yakunin was acquitted in the Nord-Troms and Senja District Court, no Russian citizen has been prosecuted for illegally flying a drone.

La Vaillant: – I hope Andrey Yakunin won’t answer when VG asks him if he’s a James Bond villain. There he is in the engine room of the yacht.

– It will probably be normal until the legality of this is clarified, Attorney General Geir Evanger previously told VG.

The attorney general still disagrees with the district court’s interpretation of the law. John Christian Elden, Yakunin’s Norwegian lawyer, has previously stated that the case is so complex legally that it may end up in the Supreme Court again.

What is the cost of this experiment?

– Time, Yakunin answers.

– Not worried about the financial side?

– Of course. We also count coins. The legal team has spent more than 2,000 hours understanding a very important part of the law. Of course, I hope these talented people can spend their time and abilities on something more significant, says Yakunin.

An expensive boat: How much does such a boat cost, asks VG Preben journalist Sørensen Olsen. If you are going to build it today, you will have to pay 4-5 million pounds sterling, the son of the British-Russian oligarch replies.

Important for cleaning

Even with a modest hourly wage – and there is no indication of that The team about Yakunin It is paid modestly – 2000 hours amounts to expenses in the millions.

Why is it so important to be acquitted in this case?

– Basically, it is important for us to always act in accordance with the authorities. For a yachtsman visiting other countries, it is important to have a clean track record and a positive history. Port authorities can make your life more interesting if they want to.

– and adds that the same applies to the business world.

On Wednesday, Andrei Yakunen’s trial begins at the Halogaland Court of Appeal. Two days were allotted to process it.

Reasons for attention: The 88-foot-long sailboat was observed where it was moored in Tromsø, near Stortorget.

The Russo-Britons also plan to sail to Moore and Romsdal.

– I’ve never been there, but everyone says it’s great. After that, I will be back here and will be in Lingen all spring. Later, we want to sail west to Iceland and Greenland. We’re crossing our fingers for a good year in terms of ice cream, he says.

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