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U.S. gets warrant to seize $45M Russian company-owned aircraft

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The United States on Wednesday obtained a warrant to seize a Boeing 737-7EM aircraft owned by PJSC LUKOIL. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice/<a href="https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/united-states-obtains-warrant-seizure-45-million-airplane-owned-russian-energy-company-pjsc">Release</a>
The United States on Wednesday obtained a warrant to seize a Boeing 737-7EM aircraft owned by PJSC LUKOIL. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice/Release

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors said they have obtained a warrant to seize a Boeing 737 aircraft owned by a Russian multinational oil and gas company on accusations of violating sanctions imposed following the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.

The aircraft is is the latest Russia-owned asset the United States and its allies have sought to seize on sanctions violations as they seek to punish Russia over its war in Ukraine and put pressure on its government to cease its invasion.

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The Justice Department announced in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas authorized it via a warrant to seize a Boeing 737-7EM aircraft owned by PJSC LUKOIL, which is headquartered in the Russian capital of Moscow.

Federal lawyers said the aircraft violates U.S. Department of Commerce sanctions imposed in the wake of the Kremlin's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine that bans the export, re-export and in-country transfer of U.S.-manufactured commodities and goods, including aircraft.

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The Justice Department values the aircraft at about $45 million.

According to federal lawyers, the plane last flew to the United States in March of 2019 when it landed in Houston, Texas, with LUKOIL officials onboard, including the company's then-president and chief executive, Vagit Alekperov.

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Alekperov, a Russian oligarch, resigned from the company in April after being hit with sanctions imposed by Britain and the European Union.

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PJSC LUKOIL is also subject to sectoral U.S. sanctions since September of 2014.

The federal department said they believe the aircraft is currently in Russia, and its interagency and international U.S.-led law enforcement Task Force KleptoCapture will be leading the seizure operation.

"The task force will continue to leverage all the department's tools and authorities to combat efforts to evade or undermine the collective actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression," the Justice Department said.

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Since Russia invaded Ukraine six months ago, the United States and its allies have targeted the assets of Russian oligarchs, particularly those in the inner circle of President Vladimir Putin to pressure him to end the war.

Superyachts, multimillion-dollar aircraft and other luxury assets owned by wealthy Russians and their companies have been seized in the past few months.

On Aug. 8, federal prosecutors received a warrant to seize Russian politician Andrei Skoch's $90 million private jet.

In late June, U.S. authorities took possession of a $300 million superyacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kermiov.

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