World

Teenager who followed Elon Musk’s jet is now spying on Russian tycoons

Jack Sweeney, a Florida teenager who follows Elon Musk’s private jet online has a new aviation-themed target: Russian oligarchs and billionaires.

The 19-year-old, who turned down Musk’s offer to delete a US$5,000 Twitter account, recently launched two new automated Twitter handlers – @RUOligarchJets and @Putinjet – after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two profiles combined nearly 300,000 followers and provided near-live updates on the private jets’ movements along with map images that pinpointed their locations.

Sweeney told the Wall Street Journal that people have long told him to start Twitter accounts like this, and those requests have increased in the wake of sanctions targeting Russia’s richest man.

Russia’s oligarchs face economic turmoil at home and Western sanctions after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine. The United States and its allies have responded by punishing wealthy individuals close to the Kremlin.

Some of the jets followed by accounts include Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, businessman Alisher Usmanov and Leonid Mikhelson, the billionaire chairman of Russian gas producer Novatek.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Sweeney said he was stunned by the size of the planes used by Russian oligarchs.

“The planes these tycoons have are absolutely insane,” Sweeney said. The country’s richest people are traveling on commercial planes like the Airbus A319 and Boeing 737. “Their planes are huge compared to other jets.”

In total, the accounts track more than 40 planes and helicopters linked to Russian oligarchs. He has invited others to help increase the number of planes that can be tracked.

Following Sweeney’s Twitter account, Musk is still active. He told the Journal that he would delete it just in exchange for a new Tesla Model 3.

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