Taras Ostapchuk | R.S.

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At the start of the week, it seemed everyone had heard of Ukrainian yacht engineer Taras Ostapchuk.

The 55-year-old made headlines across the globe for attempting to sink his Russian owner’s superyacht, Lady Anastasia, moored in Mallorca’s Port Adriano.

Upon arrest by the Guardia Civil, Ostapchuk said he was overcome with emotion when he saw a video of a Russian helicopter shooting missiles at residential apartments in his home country. He felt that his owner was the person responsible for making these military helicopters and wanted to take direct action.

In court, Ostapchuk was unapologetic and said he would do it again. He was released pending charges and is now in Kyiv awaiting instruction from the Ukrainian army. Lady Anastasia has damage to her engine room, but remains afloat.

End of restrictions

On Monday, Balearic Government spokesperson Iago Negueruela delivered the happy news that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted the next day, 1 March. All, that is, except indoor mask-wearing. Due to the rapid fall in new cases, any existing limitations on dance academies, open-air social activities, religious festivals, children’s activities, choral groups, music bands, and more, were to be abolished. Masks are still required for interiors - including bars and restaurants - and smoking continues to be outlawed on terraces.

Negueruela took the opportunity to remind people of the importance of frequent hand hygiene, safe interpersonal distance, correct ventilation and the ongoing vaccination programme. Meanwhile, Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez said in a TV interview that indoor mask-wearing would ‘very soon’ no longer be mandatory - although he was unable to provide an exact date.

Balearic Day overshadowned

Despite the warm sunny 18-degree weather, Tuesday’s Balearic Day celebrations were somewhat overshadowed by the ongoing Russian assault on Ukraine. Speaking at the La Lonja building in Palma, Balearic President Francina Armengol said 2022 would be, “the year of recovery, the year of building together decades of prosperity, and the year of our islands”.

Yet she also spoke of, “the pain of the return of war to Europe”, saying, “we are dismayed by the violence and loss of life and are concerned by the threat of Russian aggression to the values that sustain Europe, which has experienced decades of prosperity in peace, democracy and freedom”.

Last Tango in Palma?

With reports that Russian-owned superyachts are being seized as they sit in the harbours of countries that have imposed sanctions against billionaire oligarchs, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Viktor Vekselberg’s 78-metre Feadship Tango is currently resting alongside Real Club Náutico in Palma. Vekselberg is founder, owner and president of Renova Group, a Russian conglomerate with interest in various sectors, including aluminium, oil and telecoms. He has a net worth of 16 billion dollars according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. It’s claimed that the Ukrainian-born Moscow resident had close ties with both Trump and Putin.

Avalanche of support for Ukraine

As the week went on, various associations in Majorca ramped up their efforts to collect food, clothing and other essentials for the people of Ukraine. Un Somriure per Txernòbil (A Smile for Chernobyl) has numerous collection points across the island and is now asking specifically for personal hygiene products, while SOS Mamás has four collection points for food and medical supplies, such as antibiotics and bandages.

The Ukrainian Church in Playa de Palma is open 09:00 to 20:00 each day to receive donations of sleeping bags, blankets, rucksacks, leather gloves and medicines, as well as providing a place to gather in solidarity and prayer. Meanwhile, the Government has set aside 162 rooms for Ukrainian refugees, the majority of these in social housing properties in Arenal and Son Rapinya, with others being put forward by local families who have connections with Ukraine.

Much-loved Majorca resident Shiela Peczenik has offered her finca near Alcudia. Shiela’s family come from a small village, 10 kilometres from Lviv, and she feels it her duty to help Ukrainian refugees. The Government has also agreed to use the so-called ‘COVID Hotel’ in Palma, the Hotel Palma Bellver, as an interim base for refugees while they await longer-term accommodation.

Balearic unemployment falls

On Wednesday, Spain’s Ministry of Labour and Social Economy highlighted the Balearics as the region to lead the annual fall in unemployment. There are now 32,077 fewer people without work compared to a year ago - a fall of 37.92%. 26,711 work contracts were signed in February, 15.67% more than in January and a mighty 76.58% than in February last year. Of these 26,711 contracts, 10,300 were permanent and 16,411 temporary. However, it should be noted that workers affected by ERTE are considered to be employed, and the Balearics had an average of 6,258 recipients of this benefit in January.

Rents higher than Madrid

Towards the end of the week, Spain’s Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda published an update to its annual State Reference System of Housing Rental prices report. It revealed that the Balearics is now the third most expensive region in Spain to rent a property, with areas in Mallorca actually higher than Madrid and Barcelona. The golden triangle of Bendinat, Portals Nous and Illetes was highlighted as the priciest, at 12.2 euros per square metre for an apartment, more than the average rent of 12 euros in Spain’s two major cities. Other areas to beat Madrid and Barcelona are the whole island of Formentera and most of Ibiza. To fan the flames, February saw a record 7.4% year-on-year rise in the Consumer Price Index (IPC) - this percentage increase can legally be applied to rental contracts.

Shane Warne dies

On Friday, tributes were pouring in for Shane Warne, widely regarded as the greatest leg-spinner of all time. His management put out a brief statement saying the 52-year-old had passed away in Koh Samui, Thailand, of a suspected heart attack. Shane’s test career spanned from 1992 to 2007, taking 708 test wickets. The bad boy of cricket’s final Tweet was a tribute to the late Rod Marsh, a fellow Aussie cricket icon, who died of a heart attack just one day prior, age 74.