A French activist has seized and occupied a Biarritz villa, which he called “Putin’s palace” and which is said to belong to Vladimir Putin’s daughter.
The footage shows a man sporting a Ukrainian flag after the Basque Country activist, named as ‘Yellow Vest’ ringleader Pierre Haffner in French media, reportedly broke into the property along with Ukrainian accomplices and changed the locks, saying that the plush residence was now available for refugees fleeing Putin’s war.
Inside, they reportedly found a copy of a passport belonging to the Russian President’s former son-in-law.
Haffner has reportedly described himself as a “Russian blogger” exiled to France “since 2017” and as a “Russophile”.
The activist and his Ukrainian colleagues allegedly stormed the Alta Mira villa in the upmarket tourist hotspot of Biarritz, in south-western France’s Basque Country.
The plush villa, which the activist referred to as “Putin’s palace”, appears to overlook the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the activists can be seen waving a Ukrainian flag from the balcony, as its bright blue and yellow colours bellow in the wind.
The “palace” apparently belongs to Vladimir Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova, 35, and his ex-son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, 39, whom Tikhonova was married to from 2013 to 2018.
Other images shared on YouTube on Sunday, 13th March 2022, and posted on social media platforms, appear to show activists inside the home and on the balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The footage on YouTube starts with a cry of “Slava Ukraini” (“Glory to Ukraine”) before stating that “Russia will be free”. The footage is subtitled in both Russian and French and states that the “rats have fled”.
The footage features the Ukrainian national anthem playing throughout and appears to imply that Ukrainian and Russian peoples will unite to free Russia from Putin’s grip.
The images also show a magazine cover in Russian featuring Putin, an activist in a bedroom and numerous photographs of the interior of the residence.
Independent Russian media outlet The Insider reports that the activists found “a copy of the passport of Putin’s former son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov”.
French media report that the activist and his accomplices had changed the locks on the villa and were planning to welcome Ukrainian refugees there, but they were arrested by the local Biarritz police.
It was unclear at the time of writing if they had been formally charged by the French authorities. It is also currently unclear if the French authorities plan to seize the villa, as the hunt for Russian oligarchs continues.