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Great escape

Putin’s favourite beach resort

Graffiti on Putin’s ex-wife’s villa in Biarritz. Gaizka Iroz/AFP/Getty

Plenty of oligarchs have summer homes and superyachts on France’s Mediterranean coast, says John Lewis-Stempel in UnHerd. But Vladimir Putin’s “real intimates head to Biarritz for their holidays”. The 25,000-person seaside town near Bordeaux is a favourite of the president’s. He was on holiday there in 1999 when he received a call from Boris Yeltsin asking him to become prime minister. After he accepted the role, the Kremlin appointed an honorary vice consul in the French coastal resort. And the Putin family haven’t stopped buying property there since. In 2012, his daughter bought a home in the town from the oil tycoon (and Putin ally) Gennady Timchenko. And in 2013, his ex-wife picked up a £5m pad overlooking the Biarritz coastline.

They’re not so welcome now. The French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has created a task force to seize oligarch-controlled assets in France. And across the EU, Le Maire reckons they’ve frozen almost $1trn worth of Russian assets: “No oligarch will slip through our net.” Even in Biarritz, the locals are getting their own back. Recently a graffiti artist sprayed “Glory to Ukraine” and “Putin bitch” on the walls of the president’s ex-wife’s villa. If Macron’s parlaying with Putin sometimes “smacks of appeasement”, his fellow Frenchmen are taking a harder line. “It’s less Bienvenu à Biarritz, more “F*** Poutine” – as another local daubing proclaims.”