Along with numerous other Russian oligarchs, Andrey Melnichenko was added to the EU's list of oligarchs with close ties to the Russian government as the country invaded Ukraine.
Entrepreneur and billionaire Melnichenko, with an estimated net worth of $11,6 billion, was the main beneficiary of the Antwerp branch of EuroChem, a fertiliser company, which had to close temporarily in March this year as a result of the blacklisting.
Belgium’s Government gave EuroChem permission to restart production in April, so its 400-person staff and the agricultural sector would not take too many hits, De Standaard reports. In the meantime, new beneficiary for the company was assigned: his wife, Aleksandra Melnichenko.
Serbian 'Spice Girl'
Aleksandra Melnichenko rose to fame as a Serbian model and member of the girl group Models, equivalent to the Spice Girls, who made the top hit ‘Pare, pare, pare’ or ‘Money, money, money' in Serbia.
The two met in 2003 and married two years later on the Côte d’Azur, where Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston performed at the wedding and all guests stayed in a five-star hotel.
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The couple has a penthouse in New York, a villa on the Côte d'Azur and the Harewood Estate in Berkshire in the United Kingdom. The Melnichenkos travel with a Boeing 737 BBJ, decorated with a large A, the first letter of their first names.
Unfortunately for the couple, Melnichenko has been facing restrictions from the West as a response to the war in Ukraine, as his €530 million sailing yacht was seized by the Italian police in Trieste.
Aleksandra was initially not targeted by the EU, as she was not involved in any of her husband’s companies. However, after she became EuroChem’s beneficiary, she too made it to the blacklist.
“She is associated with a prominent businessman involved in economic sectors that are a significant source of income for the government of the Russian Federation,” the official statement said.
In Antwerp, staff were assured that Aleksandra’s suspension did not mean that the Government would jeopardise the factory’s restart. “We can go to work on Monday,” a unionist said on Sunday evening. “That is what was promised, and what the staff wanted.”
Aleksandra’s spokesperson said the EU made an "irrational decision," as she has never obtained the Russian nationality or lived in Russia.