The London Metropolitan Police arrested the four members of the anarchist movement late on Monday No Fixed Abode Anti-Fascists (Anti-Fascists Without Fixed Residence) who had occupied a mansion in the luxurious neighborhood of Belgravia, allegedly belonging to a Russian oligarch. For hours the security forces have played a game of patience with the squatters, who remained entrenched on the front balcony of the house. Alerted around one in the morning of the invasion of the residence, a group of about twenty agents in uniform and riot gear were deployed in the street hours later. After forcing their entry into the house, around noon, and verifying that there were no other people inside, they have remained practically all day in front of the balcony, at number 5 Belgrave Square. “We continue to establish contact with the four people on the balcony, while weighing the need to use force and the safety of all those involved. We will remain in place while we consider the next steps to take, given the complexity and size of the house,” Scotland Yard said in a first statement. A few hours later, he announced the arrest of the four squatters and four other people who had tried to gain access to the adjacent houses. The agents had used a crane to strike up a conversation with the assailants and convince them to come down from the balcony.
The anarchist group had displayed a huge sign on the front of the house that said “This property has been released”, along with another that said “Putin, go fuck yourself”(Putin, go to hell, or Putin, go to hell. In a statement made public on social networks they have explained that, with the occupation of the mansion, they wanted to show their solidarity with the people of Ukraine. “This luxurious house will serve as a support center for refugees, both Ukrainians and people of all nations and of all ethnicities”, promised the text, which ended with a call to “occupy the properties of the oligarchs everywhere”.
Deripaska, 54, owns the Anglo-Russian EN+ Group, one of the world’s largest aluminum producers. The oligarch, one of the most faithful to Vladimir Putin, already suffered sanctions from the United States Government in 2018. Through a company restructuring engineered by Gregory BArker, a former Conservative Party Secretary of State for Energy and later appointed chairman of the EN+ Group, Deripaska reduced some of his stake in the company and got Washington lift the sanctions. Johnson’s government placed the Russian billionaire on the list of seven oligarchs who, last week, froze his assets and economic activities in the United Kingdom. The businessman owns the occupied mansion through a company based in the Virgin Islands. He is also the owner of a mansion in Surrey, Hamstone House, with eight bedrooms with a swimming pool, sauna and extensive gardens.
Downing Street has condemned the occupation of the house, but without making too much of a fuss. In the last forty-eight hours, the Minister for Economic Rebalancing in England (and Johnson’s man for everything), Michael Gove, had announced that the Government was considering using the residences of the Russian oligarchs to house several of the thousands of refugees from Ukraine who may end up in the UK. “It is something that we are studying, although the occupation of residential homes is still illegal,” said a spokesman for Johnson on Monday. “We try to define the appropriate use of all these properties while their owners are subject to sanctions,” he added.
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