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    Tuesday, March 15, 2022

    Roman Abramovich Seeks Refuge in Moscow, as EU 'Agrees to Impose Sanctions' on Chelsea Owner

    Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich - hit with sanctions by the UK government over his alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin - is thought to have landed in Moscow after apparently being seen at an airport in Israel.

    A jet linked to the Russian-Israeli billionaire landed in the Russian capital on Tuesday morning following a brief stop in Istanbul, en route from Tel Aviv, according to Flightradar24.

    He is believed to have been spotted in a VIP lounge at Ben Gurion airport on Monday shortly before a jet linked to him took off for Istanbul and later landed in the Turkish city.

    Reuters said it had obtained a photo showing him in the lounge and wearing a mask under his chin. A video also appears to show him at the airport, removing his jacket. But the news agency could not confirm if the oligarch boarded the flight.

    The large Gulfstream business jet had arrived in Israel from Moscow late on Sunday, tracking websites showed.

    Israeli restrictions imposed on some private jets since the Russian invasion of Ukraine mean it could not have remained on the ground for more than 24 hours.

    Mr Abramovich's yacht £460 million yacht Solaris was moving off the coast of Albania on Tuesday morning with the status "awaiting orders", according to Refinitiv ship tracking data.

    Until Monday night, its destination was shown as Turkey after leaving Montenegro but that was removed late yesterday.

    European Union diplomats have agreed to add him to the EU's list of Russian billionaires sanctioned following Moscow's military offensive, according to two sources.

    The Chelsea owner was sanctioned in the UK last week with the British government saying the move was due to Mr Abramovich having a "close relationship for decades" with Mr Putin.

    Mr Abramovich will have his assets frozen, will also face a prohibition on transactions with UK individuals and businesses and will have a travel ban forbidding him to enter the UK.

    He denies having close ties to the Russian president.

    Britain has so far sanctioned about 20 oligarchs, including Mr Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, freezing their properties across London and banning them from coming to Britain.

    The new sanctions by the EU will hit people active in the Russian steel industry and others who provide financial services, military products and technology to the Russian state, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday.

    One EU diplomat told Reuters no concerns were raised about the new sanctions, suggesting Mr Abramovich's listing "will go through" and his assets will be frozen.

    But, as the billionaire also holds a Portuguese passport, it means that Portugal could refrain from imposing on him the asset freeze and travel ban decided at EU level, a second EU official said.

    Victoria Nuland, the US under secretary of state for political affairs, said recently that Washington was asking Israel to join in financial and export sanctions against Russia.

    And Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid said his country "will not be a route to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries".

    The sanctions came as Evraz - the UK-listed steel and coal business part-owned by Mr Abramovich - was deleted from London stock indexes.

    The UK sanctions have also impacted last season's Champions League winners Chelsea, who have been thrown into disarray.

    Mr Abramovich initially proposed to place the club in the care of its foundation and then put it up for sale for £3bn, with several billionaires including property developer Nick Candy linked with the takeover.

    However, the sanctions imposed on him in the UK means his sale of the club may not be possible.

    The Stamford Bridge club will be given a special licence to continue operating, under limited terms and will be unable to sell new tickets, sign players or extend contracts and open retail outfits.

    The sale of the club could still go ahead if the government issues another licence.

    On 11 March, Chelsea's bank account was temporarily suspended by Barclays while it assesses the licence which Chelsea has been given and sponsors including Three UK and Hyundai suspended their association with the club.

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