Exodus of Private Jets Out of Russia As Putin Calls for 'Self-Purification'

An "exodus" of private jets—most bound for Dubai—left Russia on Thursday in the wake of Vladimir Putin's rant against westernized oligarchs on Wednesday.

In a televised address from the Kremlin, the Russian president warned: "I do not judge those with villas in Miami or the French Riviera. Or [those] who can't get by without oysters or foie gras or so-called 'gender freedoms.'

"The problem is they mentally exist there, and not here, with our people, with Russia.

"The West will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on traitors… to divide our society… to strive to achieve its aim. And there is one aim—the destruction of Russia."

He went on to call for a "self-purification" of the nation.

Western sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine have started to lead to shortages for Russians while markets have tumbled. Some oligarchs have appeared critical of the war, which threatens the size of their fortunes as well as bringing the risk of personal sanctions and asset seizures in the West.

Staff writer at The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum, wrote on Twitter: "Putin's call for a 'self-purification' of Russian society can have only one intention: To remind Russians of Stalin and his 'purges.'

"He wants them to be haunted by dark, ancestral memories, to remember their grandparents' stories and to be petrified with fear."

Several jets were tracked heading out of Russia on Thursday by analyst Oliver Alexander, who tweeted about various departures then added: "A large exodus of private jets out of Moscow towards Dubai this morning too."

Earlier, he had posted: "Seems like everyone in Moscow is taking a field trip to the Urals, or at least they want everyone to believe that is happening. The planes are going, no way to know who is actually in them though.

"Heavy air activity over the skies of Russian Federation, departing from Moscow to Northern Ural Mountains and Siberia in last hours."

Some Twitter users replied querying whether it was possible the fliers were heading to safety before nuclear attacks.

But others believe it to be more likely that oligarchs are fleeing to safety fearing reprisals from Putin who appears to doubt their loyalty to him.

Eliot Higgins, founder and creative director of investigative journalism group Bellingcat, described the exodus as: "Rats abandoning the ship."

Discussing the phrase 'self-purification' in Putin's televised tirade, Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr said apologists could no longer deny the truth about him, tweeting: "I don't think the people who have cheerleaded this man, who have repeated his talking points & helped his political objectives should have a way back from this.

"He's just called for a 'self-purification' of Russia. We know where we've heard that before."

On Tuesday Newsweek reported on how Russian oligarchs are running out of places to hide their money as the West closes ranks to hit them with sanctions.

Israel declared it had been monitoring and limiting the entry of private jets and yachts—preventing oligarchs fleeing seizures in Europe from finding refuge there.

Elsewhere, multi-million dollar yachts have been seized across Europe.

Italy seized a $580m yacht belonging to Andrey Melnichenko, French police seized the $600m super yacht owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov and Spainish police seized a $140m yacht belonging to Putin ally Sergei Chemezov.

Billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of soccer team Chelsea, was hit by sanctions from both the U.K. and the EU and had his assets frozen by the British government. He has now returned to Moscow, having flown via Israel on a private jet.

Dassault Falcon 8X business jet
A Dassault Falcon 8X business jet flies above Death Valley, California on January 6, 2022. An "exodus" of private jets left Russia on Thursday after Vladimir Putin called for a "self-purification" of the nation on Wednesday. Getty Images