Even before the UK issued sanctions against Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich on Thursday, he was on the figurative trail, trying to sell his Chelsea football club and 15-bedroom mansion near Kensington Palace, and allegedly sent his Boeing plane and two mega-yachts to places where they cannot be seized.
Unfortunately for Abramovich’s jet-set ex-wife, Dasha Zhukova, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also put her in the hot seat – even though she has long-held friendships with Ivanka Trump, Karlie Kloss and other powerful people in elite art, fashion, Hollywood and high society circles.
The Russian-born art collector, who reportedly attended Donald Trump’s inauguration at Ivanka’s invitation, repeatedly had to answer questions about the $92 million New York property that Abramovich transferred to her in 2018. She also tried to distance herself from her ex. -the husband, who is worth an estimated $12 billion, has close ties to Vladimir Putin and has been listed as one of Putin’s top “enablers” by Alexei Navalny.
“As Russia became an international pariah, it meant a huge change in fortune for Zhukova,” a new report from Vanity Fair said Thusday.
Just a week before the invasion, Zhukova was seen enjoying an ‘intimate dinner’ with her good friends Kloss and Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng at ‘a Greenwich Village hotspot’ during New York Fashion Week, Vogue reported.
But days after the Russian invasion, 40-year-old Zhukova had to issue a statement at the New York Post for an article he published on the real estate of the oligarchs in Manhattan and the Upper East Side property that Abramovich transferred to him. The holdings consist of a collection of historic townhouses that Abramovich had begun combining into a single mega-mansion that was once derided as “a whole new level of blatant consumerism.”
Zhukova, who shares two children with Abramovich, told the New York Post and other outlets that the transfer was part of their divorce agreement. She also condemned the “brutal and horrific invasion”, telling the New York Post: “As someone born in Russia, I unequivocally condemn these acts of war, and I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people as well as millions of Russians. who feel the same way.”
A representative for Zhukova also issued a statement to The New York Times for his report about how Abramovich’s “billions and Kremlin connections secured him favors and elite status in the West”. The statement insisted that “Dasha went on with her life and happily remarried.”
But Putin’s attack on a Democratic neighbor has created uncertainty about Zhukova’s main achievement as an art world luminary, Vanity Fair reported. The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, the brilliant institution that Zhukova and Abramovich co-founded in 2008, has announced that it will halt work on the exhibitions “until the human and political tragedy unfolding in Ukraine has ceased. “.
Such statements by Zhukova and her museum cannot alleviate concerns that she, like other relatives of Russian oligarchs, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle made possible by Putin’s associates, who used their connections with him to “loot the Russian state” and enrich themselves and their families. , like the US treasury department said.
The Post said Zhukova declined to comment on whether or not she agrees that family members of sanctioned oligarchs should also “be deprived of illicit wealth and its accessories – property, yachts, art, jets and jewelry – obtained and retained through direct ties to dirty deals and dictators.
Another problem with Zhukova is that Abramovich is not the first oligarch in her life. Her father is oil magnate Alexander Zhukov, according to to her and Vanity Fair. Zhukova’s parents divorced when she was young; she grew up in California with her molecular biologist mother, Yelena, and attended UC Santa Barbara.
But even with her mostly American upbringing, Zhukova still comes “from a family that is tied to the explosion of wealth created by the demise of the Soviet Union and a free market economy (shaped by) brute force and the cronyism,” Vanity Fair said.
When Zhukova was young, she “spent her time floating around prestigious American universities and sailing on the yachts of high society,” Elle reported. She didn’t know much about the art either, but that apparently changed the moment she met Abramovich on one of those yachts, Elle added.
By 2008, she had risen to fame, known as the “It Girl of the Art World” because of her “billionaire boyfriend and art collector”. the New York Times reported at the time.
Like Abramovich “muse,” Zhukova likely helped him spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying iconic works of art by Edvard Munch, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and others. While with Abramovich, Zhukova also landed prestigious appointments to the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art At New York.
Indeed, in a 2009 report about Zhukova’s nomination by LACMA, Time magazine speculated that her main contribution to the museum would be to help her gain “a pipeline” to Abramovich and his “zillionaire” wealth.
But the way the couple bought art struck a figure in the New York art world as “a trophy approach to collecting,” the New York Times said. Abramovich and Zhukova also ruffled some feathers in New York in 2013 when he docked his $500 million, 533ft Eclipse yacht on the Hudson River, with Zhukova giving birth to their daughter, Leah Lou, at a local hospital several months later, Forbes reported. Although there were jokes about Leah being an “anchor baby,” she would have had citizenship anyway because Zhukova has a US passport, Forbes said.
A few years later, Abramovich’s extravagance angered the Council of Historic Districts, a New York advocacy group, over his plan to combine three of his four townhouses on East 75th Street into what we called an “urban castle”. Its 19,000 square feet would include an elevator, a swimming pool, a new glass and bronze rear facade and an “art room”.
In the meantime, if anyone is interested in the MASSIVE single family home #RomanAbramovich relies on #NYC‘s UES, well, here’s its 4-house-in-1 monstrosity. Will be New York’s largest apartment; #JeffreyEpstein just rode to hell 🔥🔥 #Russia #oligarch pic.twitter.com/gX5fWMELRR
— NYC Sights Sounds (@NYCSightsSounds) February 24, 2022
Abramovich’s philanthropy in the art world and his efforts to make VIP friends in the West may have been ways in which he tried to “launder his reputation in the West”, according to Thomas Graham, an expert. of Russia to the Council on Foreign Relations, interviewed by the New York Times. But Abramovich’s extravagance undoubtedly contributed to Zhukova’s fame.
Zhukova’s VIP friends came to include Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner; and Josh Kushner, brother of Jared, and Josh’s model wife, Karlie Kloss. In February 2014, a month before Putin illegally annexed Crimea to Ukraine, Ivanka Trump posted a photo of herself on Instagram with Zhukova and their friend Wendi Deng, Politico reported in 2017. The photo showed the friends with a bottle of wine and was captioned: “Thank you [Zhukova] for four unforgettable days in Russia!”
Over the past decade, coverage of the Met Gala and other society events, as well as Zhukova’s yacht vacations, have shown her socializing with Deng, Anna Wintour, Gwen Stefani, David Geffen, Kate Hudson, Demi Moore, Charlotte Casiraghi, Stella McCartney, fashion journalist Derek Blasberg or even Jennifer Lopez,
Zhukova and Abramovich announced their separation in 2017, Page 6 reported, and divorced in 2019, and she has since married another billionaire, Stavros Niarchos, heir to a Greek maritime fortune. Kloss, Hudson, Orlando Bloom, Gayle King and Princess Beatrice were among the guests at Zhukova and Niarchos’ $6.5 million wedding in St. Moritz, Switzerland in 2020. Vanity Fair reported.
But Russia’s invasion could make it difficult for Zhukova to advance in the court of public opinion. Several news reports have reported on his transfer of ownership to New York from Abramovich. The Treasury Department has also raised concerns that sanctioned oligarchs and other Russian elites are using family members to move assets and hide their wealth, NBC News reported. (The United States has yet to add Abramovich to its list of sanctioned oligarchs.)
The New York Post said Abramovich moved the New York townhouses to Zhukova, “shortly before prior sanctions were handed down in 2018.” Zhukova, meanwhile, insisted there was nothing nefarious about the deal, telling the New York Daily News that she and Abramovich separated in 2016 and the townhouses were transferred “pursuant to the divorce decree.”
This story has been updated.