A superyacht belonging to a Russian oligarch, who has fallen under sanctions, will be allowed to dock in South Africa.

The country has “no legal obligation” to comply with sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesman said.

The Nord, a 465-foot luxury yacht worth more than $500 million owned by Alexei Mordashov, a billionaire ally of Vladimir Putin, will be allowed to dock in Cape Town.

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The case shows the limitations of the sanctions imposed by the US and the EU in response to Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Mordashov was one of several oligarchs sanctioned by the US and the EU, but not the United Nations, after the February invasion of Ukraine for their ties to Putin.

Vincent Magwenya, Mr Ramaphosa’s spokesman, said South Africa’s obligations under the sanctions “are only those specifically adopted by the United Nations”, of which it is a founding member.

The yacht, which has six decks and a helipad, left Hong Kong last Thursday and is heading to Cape Town, according to MarineTraffic, a marine tracker.

The decision was criticized by South African opposition leaders, including the mayor of Cape Town, who called on the government to block Nord’s entry.

Vladimir Putin with Alexei Mordashov in 2015

Jordyn Hill-Lewis, a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, tweeted: “There is no place in our city for accomplices and supporters of Putin’s war.”

According to Forbes, before the sanctions, Mordashov’s wealth was estimated at $29.1 billion, making him the richest person in Russia.

The yacht docked in Hong Kong after a seven-day voyage from Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East near the border with China, across the Sea of ​​Japan and the East China Sea.

Before his arrival, John Lee, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, said authorities would not act on unilateral sanctions imposed on Mordashov by individual jurisdictions.

“We can’t do anything that doesn’t have a legal basis,” said Mr Lee, himself under US sanctions for his role in suppressing local freedoms.

China, a traditional Russian ally, has opposed economic sanctions against Russia and refused to condemn Mr Putin’s invasion, although he called for a negotiated end to the war at the UN General Assembly last month.

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Mordashov built his wealth around the Russian steel producer Severstal.

Several superyachts belonging to Russia have been seized since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

In recent months, some have been relocated to parts of the world considered beyond the reach of Western sanctions, including Turkey, parts of Asia and the Caribbean.