, 2022-06-23 05:02:39,
In the early hours of March 14, a small group of men, dressed mostly in black, pried open an entrance to one of London’s grandest mansions, triggering its alarm system. The six-story residence, with a white stucco frontage, sits on a highly trafficked 19th-century development that has for decades housed various viscounts, earls, and dukes. Not far from Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster Parliament building, and an archway commemorating Britain’s victory over Napoléon, the property shares a prestigious zip code with the embassies of Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Norway. Once the home of Britain’s secretary of state for war and the colonies, 5 Belgrave Square has more recently been one of several London outposts for a rather different but no less acquisitive sort of empire—that of Russian wealth.
The intruders called themselves London Makhnovists after an early-20th-century anarchist who sought to create a stateless society in what is now Ukraine. However, the target of their protest was not a state per se, but the 2003 purchaser of the building, with its list price of $39 million. Oleg Deripaska, a trained physicist who founded aluminum giant Rusal, is one of a handful of extremely rich Russian businessmen to have snapped up plum properties in the British capital. And so just a few weeks after Moscow’s forces had parachuted into Kyiv and millions of Ukrainians began pouring across the borders of Eastern Europe, the anarchists decided the vast, empty Belgrave Square property would be ideally suited to house refugees. They hung banners from its façade: a sky blue one asserting “this property has been liberated,” and a red one exhorting the Russian president…
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