Chelsea Football Club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich was on Thursday hit with a UK assets freeze and travel ban, throwing his plans to sell the European and world club champions into disarray, AFP reported.
The billionaire owner of the English Premier League side became the highest-profile oligarch yet sanctioned by any Western country, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine late last month.
Abramovich, 55, was one of seven more oligarchs slapped with new British restrictions over the invasion, including his former business partner Oleg Deripaska, the report said.
As per the report, the Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson has been accused of delaying action against wealthy Russians, and turning a blind eye to Russian money that has coursed through London since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He called the sanctions “the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people” while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said they showed that “oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy and society”.
“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,” AFP quoted her as saying.
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, turning the perennial also-rans into serial winners with unlimited transfer funds after he became rich on the chaotic privatisation of state assets in 1990s Russia.
He has denied claims that he bought the London club on President Vladimir Putin’s orders, to expand Russia’s influence abroad in the early 2000s.
Others sanctioned Thursday were Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin, whom the British government described as Putin’s “right-hand man”, and the head of energy giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller.
Also on the list were VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Transneft president Nikolai Tokarev and Bank Rossiya chairman Dmitri Lebedev.
Meanwhile, the Football Club in a statement said, “By virtue of his 100 per cent ownership of Chelsea FC plc and affiliated entities, Chelsea FC would normally be subject to the same sanctions regime as Mr Abramovich. However, the UK Government has issued a general licence that permits Chelsea FC to continue certain activities”.
“We will fulfil our men’s and women’s team fixtures today against Norwich and West Ham, respectively, and intend to engage in discussions with the UK Government regarding the scope of the licence,” it said on March 10.
This will include seeking permission for the licence to be amended in order to allow the Club to operate as normal as possible. We will also be seeking guidance from the UK Government on the impact of these measures on the Chelsea Foundation and its important work in our communities, the statement added.