Former Huddersfield gymnast and pub landlord Brian Hayhurst and his wife Elaine are ex-pats who have lived just outside Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol for 20 years. He writes every week for Huddersfield Hub.
Like other nations worldwide, people in Southern Spain are rallying with compassion to raise money, collect clothing and other items for the beleaguered but defiant Ukrainian people.
Here on the Costa del Sol we live just 20 miles from the mansion owned by the most hated man on the planet at the moment – Vladimir Putin.
An 18,000m square plot had a villa on it, but Putin demolished it in 2012 and replaced it with the most extravagant, opulent mansion costing over £15 million on what is described as the most exclusive private estate in Europe called La Zagaleta, Marbella. Putin’s vast house is only metres from Rod Stewart’s villa.
As I write, no one is sure yet as to what will happen to this property and the hundreds of others owned by super rich Oligarch Russians here and on the Spanish islands, but they will be sanctioned and cannot be sold or money raised from them.
Putin had made several visits here in the past to oversee the development, secretly flown in to Malaga airport and helicoptered on to the mansion’s own helipad.
The property boasts 10 lavish bedrooms, cinema, piano bar, swimming pools and a 10-car garage. It has the latest high-tech security, of course.
I think it certain that the property will be seized by Spain. If only any money raised could go directly into the Ukrainian coffers to help the country defend itself.
The four regular Aeroflot flights from Moscow to Malaga are now cancelled and this will add to the drastic negative effect on the tourist industry here – just as it was beginning to catch up.
The thousands of Russian investors and second home owners will flee or find alternative places to spend their much-devalued rouble piles.
There are many very rich Russian visitors in or around Marbella and Estepona where they live part of each year, spending huge sums of money. But with no access to their millions they will find it difficult to continue living here.
As a friend who has a top job in one Marbella five star hotel said: “Russians have no money and are leaving in droves.”
Along with other billionaires with interests in property or owners of extravagant super yachts is Roman Abramovich. The owner of Chelsea FC reportedly has four massive boats. One is called Eclipse and is valued at around $600 million.
It has an anti-missile defence system, an escape pod and three helicopters, 10 decks, 35 cabins and needs 70 crew to sail it. Until recently it was the longest private yacht in the world at half the length of The Titanic!
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Another of his fleet – Solaris – is presently undergoing a refit in a Barcelona shipyard alongside others owned by associates of Putin. Solaris is already in Spanish hands.
All of these, and many others with any assets on Spanish waters or land, are being frozen by authorities awaiting EU to approve sanctions against individual Russians, which is looking pretty certain.
Several super yacht owners have quickly moved on into neutral waters with safe harbours like Oleg Deripaska, who anchored his boat Clio off the Maldives on Monday. The Maldives does not have an extradition treaty with the US, who would almost certainly have confiscated it.
Here in the bright sunshine daily, things appear to be going quite well with eateries and entertainment venues taking decent bookings up and down the coast.
Everyone we speak to condemns Putin’s hideous actions and pour their hearts out for the frightened families escaping with nothing but what they wear or can carry. It is hard to comprehend what is happening.