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Tries to sink Russian boss’ yacht, then he leaves for war

February 28, 2022 GMT

MADRID (AP) — A Ukrainian sailor who tried to sink a superyacht allegedly belonging to a Russian arms tycoon was on his way to his native Kyiv Monday, determined to join the fight against invading forces there.

Taras Ostapchuk said he was hoping to join Ukrainian soldiers or civil militias trying to hold back Russian troops advancing towards the capital, Kyiv, and other parts of his homeland.

“All Ukrainian citizens must be defenders of our fatherland because it is being subject to Russian aggression,” he told the Associated Press from Barcelona hours after being released from detention in Mallorca where the yacht was docked and just before boarding a flight to the Polish capital, Warsaw.

“We must stop this war,” Ostapchuk said from the other side of the phone.

The 55-year-old engineer’s act of defiance happened Saturday at a luxurious marina in Mallorca. His target was the Lady Anastasia, a 48-meter-long (457-feet-long) superyacht whose owner, according to Ostapchuk, is Alexander Mikheev.

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Mikheev, 61, is the CEO of Rosoboronexport, the weapons export arm of Russia’s state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec. According to the brief biography on the company’s website, Mikheev was formerly head of defense contractor JSC Russian Helicopters.

A local Civil Guard spokesman said that yacht’s other crew members alerted authorities of the attempted sinking. Officers who showed up at the marina on Saturday found two open hatches letting in water. The yacht was saved and Ostapchuk was arrested, the officer said.

The sailor offered no contrition when questioned by a local judge on Sunday: “He regards the owner of the yacht as a criminal because he earns money selling arms that, according to him, kill Ukrainians,” the judge wrote summarizing the interrogation according to the copy seen by AP.

Ostapchuk said that he had been well aware of his employer’s activities for much of the decade and that he was tasked with the yacht’s maintenance.

But he told AP that images carried on an online newscast of a Russian missile striking a house resembling his own in Kyiv flipped a switch in his brain. The missile partially destroyed five floors of the house, he said.

The arms produced by the yacht’s owner are “now being used against my own people,” Ostapchuk said.

The sailor considered what he would do for a couple of hours before deciding to take revenge. According to his court deposition, the sailor acted to avoid polluting or causing harm to others by closing the yacht’s fuel valves and alerting the other crew members, all of them Ukrainians.

A fight broke between Ostapchuk and his colleagues, who ended up calling the marina’s management.

The Civil Guard said they weren’t able to confirm yacht’s ownership.

“These luxurious boats are usually registered in tax havens under front companies that are not necessarily their final owners,” said a Civil Guard spokesman who isn’t authorized to provide his name.