Fourteen private jets that have taken off from Russia have landed at Ben Gurion Airport in the past 10 days, Channel 12 news reported Friday, as Israel continues to avoid joining Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, Channel 12 reported that an unusual number of rented private jets have been flying from Russia to Israel since the invasion of Ukraine, a possible indication that some wealthy Russians are looking at ways to slip around sanctions imposed to punish their country for the attack.
The outlet said at least seven private jets were chartered from a company that provides jets for hire in Europe, and originated in Turkey. Tracking data showed the planes made trips from Turkey to Moscow and St. Petersburg, then from those cities to Tel Aviv.
The unknown identity of the passengers, and the timing of the journeys, has prompted speculation that those on board were Russian oligarchs who have been slapped with sanctions over the assault on Ukraine, the TV report said.
The station speculated that some may have been using the hired private jets to avoid moving their own planes and to hide their movements as the turmoil surrounding the conflict in Ukraine continues.
In the wake of the Russian invasion, Western countries applied crippling sanctions on Russia, with the US along with numerous other countries also leveling penalties on the oligarchs.
Israel has not joined the sanctions, but it reportedly has banned the oligarchs from parking their planes in the country.
According to Hebrew media reports, the Israel Airports Authority has instructed staff at Ben Gurion Airport not to approve long-term parking of private jets belonging to US-sanctioned Russians, to prevent them from being stashed in Israel in an attempt to bypass sanctions.
Channel 12 reported the planes are now limited to no more than 48 hours on the ground in the country.
The oligarchs — government officials and business owners who have amassed vast wealth in an economy where only loyalists of Russian President Vladimir Putin can get ahead — are seen as somewhat vulnerable because much of their wealth is tied to Western interests.
One of the most high-profile of those oligarchs is Roman Abramovich, with the United Kingdom and Canada announcing sanctions on the Russian-Israeli.
Among Abramovich’s assets are at least two luxury yachts, one of which is currently off the coast of Italy, according to marine tracking sites.
Unconfirmed reports suggested the yacht is heading for Israel although it is unclear if it would be permitted to dock.
According to UK newspaper The Times, Abramovich owns at least three properties in Israel — a hotel in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tsedek neighborhood he bought from actress Gal Gadot’s husband Yaron Varsano, an estate in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya, and a Tel Aviv beachfront five-story office building.
He is also thought to have invested in a number of Israeli startups.
Abramovich is also a major donor to causes in Israel.
On Thursday, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum announced that it was suspending ties with Abramovich following the imposition of the sanctions.
Agencies contributed to this report.