In a series of devastating tweets from his prison cell, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has claimed that the majority of Russian oligarchs close to Putin have so far escaped comprehensive sanctions in the wake of Russia’s violent assault on Ukraine.

Only 46 of the 200 richest Russians, according to Forbes magazine rankings, are currently subject to American, European or British sanctions. He singled out Roman Abramovich, the former Chelsea owner and proprietor of the Château de la Croë estate near Antibes. Abramovich, who also holds an Israeli passport, continues to supply metals to the Russian Defence Ministry, and yet is not sanctioned in the US.

“You can’t expect a schism among Putin’s elites over the war, if, despite much chatter, you don’t use the stick against them and let them keep their carrots,” he said in one of his incisive tweets, released through his lawyer.

At a time when many people thought that sanctions were a closed book, Navalny added: “I call on voters and lawmakers in the EU, UK, US and Canada to put pressure on the executive, to force it to stop grandstanding and introduce massive personal sanctions against Putin’s thieves.”

As the Riviera and Monaco echo this summer to the sounds of Russian visitors enjoying themselves, the European Union is about to consider a visa ban on Russians that would stop them accessing top European destinations thanks to the Schengen system.

Navalny, a lawyer as well as an activist, was sentenced in March to a nine-year prison term on fake charges of corruption.

FILE PHOTO: Roman Abramovich Reuters