Roman Abramovich, the embattled owner of English soccer club Chelsea FC, has been sanctioned by the UK government, which has frozen his assets in the country.
The Russian was one of seven oligarchs, including Igor Sechin, Oleg Deripaska and Dmitri Levedev, to be officially added to the sanction list on Thursday in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich, who has been under the media and political spotlight the UK due to his reported links to Russian President Vladimir Putin (reports he has previously refuted), last week put Chelsea up for sale, days after announcing that he was transferring the “stewardship” of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
One of Russia’s – and Britain’s – richest people, Abramovich had also reportedly been trying to offload his UK properties ahead of potential sanctions, including a 15-bedroom mansion in London’s Kensington Palace Gardens – on a road dubbed “Billionaire’s Row”.
Since Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine in late February, there had been growing pressure for the UK to freeze the assets of Russian billionaires, many of whom who had poured their fortunes into London over the last couple of decades, investing billions of dollars across portfolios of properties and businesses. Several had also given sizeable donations to the ruling Conservative Party.
“Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday. “We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”
Before Thursday’s announcement, there had been widespread criticism of the British government that delays in issuing sanctions were giving oligarchs time to offload their assets.
Described as a pro-Kremlin oligarch, the Chelsea FC owner was hit with an asset freeze and a travel ban in an updated sanctions list published on Thursday after ministers came under sustained pressure to target him.
The updated sanctions list, which hits seven new elite individuals, said Abramovich has had a “close relationship for decades” with President Putin, which the football club owner has previously denied.
Oleg Deripaska, an industrialist worth £2 billion who has had close links with the British political establishment, is also hit along with five others in the updated sanctions list.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the British government targeted the oligarchs to “ramp up the pressure on the Putin regime and choke off funds to his brutal war machine”.
Truss said, “With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression. The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame.”
The list includes:
– Roman Abramovich: owner of Chelsea FC and has stakes in steel giant Evraz and Norilsk Nickel.
– Oleg Deripaska: has stakes in En+ Group.
– Igor Sechin: chief executive of Rosneft.
– Andrey Kostin: chairman of VTB bank.
– Alexei Miller: CEO of energy company Gazprom.
– Nikolai Tokarev: president of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft.
– Dmitri Lebedev: chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Rossiya.
- A Tell / Metro and Agencies report