Police hit back in row over handling of Ukraine mansion protest

Mayor questioned whether the Met police response to protesters entering the Belgravia home of a Russian oligarch was proportionate.

15 March 2022

Police have hit back at criticism of the way they handled protesters who broke into a Russian oligarch’s empty mansion over the invasion of Ukraine.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who holds the Metropolitan Police to account, questioned whether the force’s response to protesters breaking in to the Belgravia home of Oleg Deripaska was “proportionate”.

On Monday a series of Tweets was sent from the Met’s @MPSWestminster account defending the action, saying: “Officers were initially called to reports of people breaking into a house just after 1am. This led to an immediate response and would do so anywhere in London.

“Once at the property officers were told the intrusion was for the purposes of a protest. However, squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence.

“In addition, officers faced difficult decisions as they had not independently verified what was taking place inside the property, who was present and whether there were other risks.

“Over the following hours we deployed the resources necessary to resolve the situation swiftly but safely, both for our officers and the protesters.”

The protesters broke into the property in Belgrave Square, west London, at around 1am on Monday and declared that it “belongs to Ukrainian refugees”.

Police wearing riot gear used a drill to break open the front door and enter the house, with Scotland Yard declaring no protesters were inside in the afternoon.

Officers in riot gear entering the mansion on Monday
Officers in riot gear entering the mansion on Monday. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Footage posted on social media showed some of the protesters shouting abuse at the officers as they made their way to the building.

The squatters called themselves the London Makhnovists, after Nestor Makhno, who led an anarchist force that attempted to form a stateless society in Ukraine during the Russian Revolution of 1917-23.

They hung a Ukrainian flag and two signs which read “This property has been liberated” and “Putin go f*** yourself”.

Speaking to LBC’s Tonight With Andrew Marr programme on Monday, Mr Khan said the police response – which included deploying a JCB crane to gain access to the mansion and cordoning off the street –  “does raise questions”.

“I’m unclear what the police were responding to because we know no-one’s living there,” he said.

“But I’m not sure if there were concerns about any crimes being done to any neighbouring properties, so those are the questions.”

He said he would raise the issue with the outgoing Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick or another senior officer.

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