A group of squatters living in an Amsterdam mansion owned by a prominent Russian tech entrepreneur who is under E.U. sanctions can stay, an Amsterdam court has ruled, finding that there was no legitimate reason for the building to lie vacant.
The owner of the house is Arkady Volozh, the founder of Yandex, a tech colossus that dominated search and ride-hailing across Russia. Mr. Volozh served as the company’s chief executive, but he and his top deputy stepped aside after the European Union imposed sanctions on both of them, accusing them of abetting Kremlin disinformation.
Mr. Volozh holds an E.U. passport from Malta, but he is not allowed into the bloc under the sanctions, nor is he allowed to sell or rent out the house or make a profit on it, the court ruling last week noted.
Squatters late last month moved into the house, which sits on an expensive street in the southern part of the Dutch capital overlooking the city’s largest green space, the Vondelpark. The average asking price for a house on the street is about $1.6 million, according to a Dutch real estate website that tracks the value of homes.
One of the reasons that Mr. Volozh had wanted the squatters out of the property was that he and his family would occasionally stay there, according to the ruling. Renovations at the house, which started in 2019, were also in their final stages, it noted.
Given the E.U. sanctions, and because he was no longer the chief executive of Yandex, which has an office in Amsterdam, the court ruled he did not have any reason to visit the city.
While home invasion and squatting are punishable offenses under Dutch law, “this isn’t an ‘ordinary’ vacancy,” the court ruling said.
Mr. Volozh plans to to appeal the decision, his lawyer said in a statement to The Guardian.
The squatters are protesting the war in Ukraine as well as housing policies in Amsterdam. “The squatters think it’s unfair that millionaires can use Dutch houses to make a profit,” their lawyer told the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool. Banners hanging from the home have read, in English, “Against War and Capitalism.”