Thursday, 10 March 2022


The Chelsea football club owner, Roman Abramovich, is among seven of Russia’s wealthiest and most influential oligarchs who have been hit with sanctions by the UK, in an effort to further punish allies of Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich was found by the UK government to have “received preferential treatment and concessions” from the Kremlin and through his business links been “involved in destabilising Ukraine, and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence” of the eastern European country.

The Foreign Office said he was implicated through the steel manufacturing and mining company Evraz plc, in which he had a significant shareholding and over which he exercised effective control. It said the firm may have supplied steel to the Russian military for the production of tanks.

Abramovich’s assets have been frozen, and he will be prohibited from making any transactions in the UK, as well as being subject to a travel ban.

It is the first time Abramovich has been subjected to sanctions by the UK or any of its allies. The other Russian oligarchs hit with sanctions on Thursday morning were Igor Sechin, Oleg Deripaska, Andrey Kostin, Alexei Miller, Nikolai Tokarev and Dmitri Lebedev.

Deripaska was Abramovich’s one-time business partner, Sechin was said by the Foreign Office to have been Putin’s “right-hand man”, and Kostin, Miller, Tokarev and Lebedev were labelled as part of the Russian president’s “inner circle”.

Boris Johnson said the move was a demonstration of the UK’s “unwavering support for the Ukrainian people”. The prime minister added: “We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”

The sanctions against Abramovich have huge repercussions for Chelsea football club, which he was in the process of trying to sell. Ministers have effectively blocked that process.

A government source said it would consider an application for a licence to allow sale of the club – but that the licence would not be granted if the sale benefited Abramovich while he was subject to sanctions.

Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, said a special licence had been issued to allow games to be played, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches but that Abramovich would be deprived of benefiting from his ownership of the club.

“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended,” she added.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich’s lawyers had argued that he did not fit the criteria for sanctions, and said: “It would be ludicrous to suggest that our client has any responsibility or influence over the behaviour of the Russian state.”

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said the action taken against Abramovich was the right decision but overdue.

“Too few oligarchs linked to Putin’s rogue regime have so far faced sanctions from the UK government,” he said. “We are lagging far behind allies in the EU and the US.

“It is right that, under pressure from Labour, the government U-turned to strengthen sanctions legislation. Ministers must now move faster to continue to close the sanctions gap.”

Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, told CNN on a visit to the US: “There can be nowhere to hide for these individuals, and we cannot carry on with business as usual as we have been doing for the past 20 years.”

She added: “If Putin doesn’t stop now, and isn’t stopped in Ukraine, the consequences will be even more damaging for European security, but also for global security.” Guardian


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