Zelensky, Ukrainian President ‘told Biden NOT to sanction Chelsea billionaire Roman Abramovich because he hoped he could help negotiate peace talks with Putin’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked President Joe Biden in a recent telephone call not to impose sanctions on Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich because he might prove to be a useful intermediary in peace talks with Moscow, it emerged on Wednesday.
As a result, the White House persuaded the Treasury Department not to go ahead with plans to hit Abramovich alongside other wealthy Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin, according to people familiar with the details.
The revelations, reported by the Wall Street Journal, explain how one of the world’s richest men has avoided U.S. sanctions even as the United Kingdom and European Union hit him with travel bans and asset freezes.
Sources familiar with calls between the two presidents told the newspaper that Biden consulted Zelensky on a range of sanctions, including plans for the 55-year-old owner of Chelsea soccer club.
Abramovich has been hit by a string of sanctions in the U.K. and E.U. due to his close relationship with Putin.
He put Chelsea Football Club up for sale, and staff are said to have been ready for viewings at his 15-bedroom $195 million (£150m) mansion at Kensington Palace Gardens, London, and a three-storey penthouse at Chelsea Waterfront.
The Russian billionaire made his fortune buying up discounted state assets after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Ukrainian officials are tapping up anyone with Russian contacts who might be able to act as an intermediary with Putin.
That reportedly included film producer Alexander Rodnyansky who in turn contacted Abramovich.
But his involvement is viewed with skepticism in some quarters.
Despite the apparent request, Abramovich has not been very effective at facilitating peace talks, the Journal said.
The U.S. has yet to sanction Abramovich, despite sanctions levied against more than 20 Russian billionaires by the U.S., EU or the U.K.