As Russian troops massed on the borders of Ukraine, OCCRP was approached by the Guardian about working together to audit the wealth of those who had benefited most from their connections to the Kremlin. We decided to join forces with 24 other reporting partners and create the Russian Asset Tracker, the most comprehensive audit ever published of property held outside Russia by oligarchs and senior officials close to Putin.

After years during which Russia’s business elite resorted to libel threats to silence reporting on their political influence and financial affairs, the project presented significant legal risk. We decided to use a list of over 30 regime insiders compiled by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny as a starting point, because those names had the protection of having been read onto the record in the U.S. Congress.

Weeks later, Russia invaded and governments in Europe and beyond began imposing the most comprehensive package of sanctions in history against Russia and its oligarchs. Almost every individual on the Navalny list was targeted.

On 21 March, less than four weeks after the start of the war, we published our findings, revealing to the public what it had taken years for Putin’s enablers to hide. By tracing the ownership of assets through offshore structures and public registries, we identified land, mansions, companies, vessels, aircraft, and other assets that could be tied through documentary evidence to Putin’s circle.

Russian Asset Tracker is the largest public listing of verified assets held outside Russia by oligarchs and senior officials close to Putin. It is a live project and is updated — we add people and assets as we verify them with hard evidence that could stand in a court of law. At the time of publication, we had identified $17.5 billion in assets, a figure which has since surpassed $20 billion.

The project garnered OCCRP’s highest social media engagement to date and our daily page views were 83 times our daily average. The Guardian’s content attracted over two million unique browsers, and directed hundreds of thousands of readers to the full database hosted by OCCRP.

We opted for a visual-first interactive database, showcasing both the lavish nature of the assets and their extreme value. We put together a compelling and effective design to showcase the data using a strong visual identity that draws references from soviet era propaganda artworks.