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Son of former Russian Railways head Yakunin charged in Norway for launching drone

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The Norwegian prosecutor's office has charged Andrey Yakunin, the son of former Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin – a member of Ozero, a dacha cooperative associated with Vladimir Putin’s inner circle – for violating the country’s sanctions laws, reported Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Yakunin Jr. stands accused of repeatedly operating a drone between Aug. 3 and Sept. 6 in Svalbard.

However, his defense argues that he has British citizenship, meaning the sanctions law – which says that Russians cannot fly aircraft in Norway – does not apply to him. Moreover, Yakunin's lawyers point out that drones that are not used for military purposes do not fall under the scope of the law.

Media reports about Yakunin's arrest surfaced on October 19. They initially said that a Russian son of a “person close to Putin” was arrested in Norway for launching a drone. Independent investigative outlet Agentstvo drew attention to the fact that Yakunin's son fit the description. On October 27, an appeals court in Norway released him from custody, according to NRK.

Andrey Yakunin is one of the founders of the British investment company Venture Investments & Yield Management, which has invested in hotels in Europe and Russia. Andrey Yakunin estimates his investments in Italy, where he is now based, at €150 million, claiming that he is far from the oligarchs on the Forbes list.

The Insider earlier detailed how Vladimir Yakunin became the holder of Russian Railways’ “obshchak” (organized crime jargon referring to a collective fund intended for use in the interests of a criminal group) when he became head of the state-owned railway operator in 2005. Money for the “obshchak” was collected through kickbacks for state companies and exported to offshore companies through a “Moldovan laundromat.” The total damage to the Russian budget from the embezzlement amounted to more than $20 billion.

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