UK imposes sanctions against Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

The UK's sanctions would make it more difficult for Abramovich to sell the Chelsea Football Club.

Roman Abramovich (photo credit: CHELSEA FC/COURTESY)
Roman Abramovich
(photo credit: CHELSEA FC/COURTESY)

The UK sanctioned the assets of Israeli-Russian businessman and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, according to a document released Thursday by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation of the UK Treasury.

The move would make it more difficult for Abramovich to sell the Chelsea Football Club.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the sale of Chelsea soccer club would require another license:

"We would have to grant a further license. I think it is fair to say the government is open to the sale of the club, but ... currently, it would require another license and that would require a further conversation with the Treasury (finance ministry)," he told reporters.

The others added to the list were Oleg Deripaska, who has stakes in En+ Group, Dmitri Lebedev, chairman of Bank Rossiya, Alexei Miller, the chief executive of energy company Gazprom, and Nikolai Tokarev, the president of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft.

"There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin's vicious assault on Ukraine," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Read more about the Russia-Ukraine War:

The stated reason for the sanctioning of Abramovich is that he is a "pro-Kremlin oligarch" who is associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom "Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades." The UK government also reasoned that Abramovich is in close contact with two other people sanctioned by the government, VEB Chairman of the Management Board Igor Shuvalov and former General-Director of Gazprom Investment Holdings Alisher Usmanov.

 Herzog and Abramovich (credit: KOBI GIDON) Herzog and Abramovich (credit: KOBI GIDON)

Abramovich was also accused of potentially supplying steel to the Russian military. 

The association with Putin allegedly included "obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia," the sanction document explained. "This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favorable rates, and the contracts received in the run-up to the FIFA2018 World Cup."

 Britain's government said on Thursday it would enable soccer club Chelsea to continue playing matches after halting Abramovich's plan to sell the English Premier League side.

Abramovich had put the club up for sale, but Britain's asset freeze and sanctions on him bar that process under the terms of the license granted to the club.

Nadine Dorries, Britain's minister for sport, said the government had issued a special license to enable Chelsea to play fixtures, pay staff and enable ticket holders to attend matches, because it did not want to harm the reigning European and world soccer champions.

"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 said on Twitter. "Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We're committed to protecting them."

The government said the license would be kept under review.

On February 28, The Jerusalem Post learned that Abramovich, at the request of Ukraine, assisted in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus. The negotiations were unsuccessful, and another round of negotiations occurred between Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Turkey on Thursday.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.