EU to slap Russian-Israeli Abramovich and other oligarchs with more sanctions
The European Union must sanction Roman Abramovich and other oligarchs in its latest round of sanctions against Russians seen as supporting Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, three diplomats told AFP on Monday.
The Russian-Israeli billionaire owner of Chelsea football club and others are added to a list of individuals whose assets in the EU – including superyachts and mansions – can be seized and denied entry into the bloc , the diplomats said.
They are part of a fourth round of EU sanctions against Russia, details of which were due to be released later on Monday.
The EU decision follows those of Britain and Canada, which last week put Abramovich on their own sanctions lists. London’s decision put Abramovich’s hasty sale of Chelsea – announced on March 2 – on ice.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday that Chelsea fans should stop chanting “completely inappropriate” Abramovich’s name during games.
Club fans expressed their support for Abramovich in Sunday’s home win over Newcastle after he was sanctioned by the British government.
“We recognize the strength of sentiment around people’s clubs, but that doesn’t excuse totally inappropriate behavior at this time,” the spokesperson said.
“I think people can show their passion and support for their club without resorting to this stuff,” he added.
According to an EU diplomat, the reason given for sanctioning Abramovich was because he “is a Russian oligarch who has long and close ties with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin”, to whom he has “privileged access”.
It is considered to provide “a substantial source of revenue” to the Russian government.
This weekend, Abramovich’s 140-metre-long (460ft) superyacht Solaris was spotted arriving at a port in Montenegro, which is not part of the EU but has ambitions to join. The ship left the Spanish port of Barcelona a few days earlier.
On Monday, a plane suspected of being used by the billionaire left Israel for Istanbul, according to a Reuters report, a day after landing at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.
Israel has said it will stop US-sanctioned Russian oligarchs from keeping their planes and yachts in Israel, but is unable to prevent Abramovich from entering the country.
Abramovich, 55, has a fortune of $12.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, and is rumored to own half a dozen yachts. In addition to his Israeli nationality, he also acquired Portuguese nationality.
Last Friday, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, after an EU summit in France, announced the latest round of sanctions agreed with partner countries, saying they would “further isolate Russia and exhaust the resources it uses to finance this barbaric war”.
Its trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, said on Monday: “There is nobody untouchable as you will see.”
“This list of oligarchs is continuously being expanded – not just oligarchs, (but) also senior state and military officials of Russia,” Dombrovskis said.
He added that Russians considered “actively involved in the Russian propaganda machine” were also on the list.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a visit to North Macedonia that “it will be another blow” for the Russian economy.
Russia’s gross domestic product is expected to shrink significantly under successive rounds of sanctions imposed by the EU, the United States and its allies, which target Russia’s central bank and companies, including airlines.