Sergey Lavrov and his stepdaughter Polina Kovaleva. Photo: Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images and David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Walkabout Foundation)
Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs over the war in Ukraine have drawn new scrutiny over the lavish European lifestyles of “unofficial” family members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
The day the UK government sanctioned Roman Abramovich and six other oligarchs, attention turned to a video investigation on Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, carried out by Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation in September last year.
A thread from the foundation’s head of research, Maria Pevchikh, about Kovaleva’s high-society lifestyle went viral on Twitter on Thursday. He said that in “a textbook example of unexplained wealth”, the Imperial College London graduate, now 26, bought a flat in London’s elite Kensington district for £4.4m in cash when she was 21. years. She said her Instagram account was a “non-stop vacation” between luxury villas, from Austria to Sardinia.
Despite her stepdaughter’s island-hopping lifestyle, infinity pool and private education in the UKLavrov has been a fervent critic of western liberal values In addition to being a key figure in spread disinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He too accused the UK to stage the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, south-west England, in 2018.
Established by jailed opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Navalny, the Anti-Corruption Foundation said that, like many of Putin’s closest aides, including Putin himself, Lavrov has two families: one official and one unofficial.
Lavrov began a relationship with his mistress, Svetlana Polyakova, Kovaleva’s mother, in the early 2000s, the foundation said. Polyakova, who is said to accompany Lavrov on private jet trips around the world, has since become very wealthy, owning a £5m apartment in Moscow and some high-end cars.
“Lavrov made numerous speeches about the evil Anglo-Saxon world and horrible liberal Western countries that want to destroy Russia and Ukraine. So why the hell does his stepdaughter live in central London? Why is she not in the Crimea or Donbass, why is she not moving there? Pevchikh said on Twitter.
“Polina and her mother must be punished. Polina has to pack her Louis Vuitton bags, say goodbye to her British life and leave the UK. If she cannot explain where she got the £4.4 million from, her property should be arrested under the unexplained wealth warrant procedure.”
Oliver Bullough, author of upcoming book Butler to the World: How Britain became the servant of tycoons, tax evaders, kleptocrats and criminals, he told VICE World News: “Kleptocrats and oligarchs get rich because they like to spend money, or often because their children, wives, and mistresses like to spend money. You can’t live like a Kardashian in Moscow, so they tend to come and do that in London. Or, more accurately, in London, Mykonos, St Barts, Miami, Los Angeles, Ibiza and all the usual haunts of wealthy nomads.
“That’s why we need to add the children or stepchildren of sanctioned oligarchs to sanctions lists: If they can’t hang out with their Eurotrash friends, they’re going to get really mad, and we can add their nuisance power to the other tools the West is using to make the Russian elite end its aggression against Ukraine.”