Zelensky Told Biden Not to Sanction Abramovich
Editor’s note: Oligarchs are the least likely to have favored the war, and have the least to gain by it.
Source: The Daily Beast
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly asked President Biden to refrain from sanctioning Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich earlier this month, believing that the billionaire could be a useful conduit for negotiations between Russian and Ukraine.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Treasury Department had already drafted possible sanctions against Abramovich before the White House intervened.
Previously, separate reports stated that Abramovich was in Belarus late last month to assist with peace talks.
Following Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, the billionaire announced that he would hand over control of the Chelsea Football Club, which he owned, to a charitable trust; he then said he would sell the club entirely.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked President Joe Biden to delay imposing sanctions on the Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich so he could act as a mediator between Moscow and Kyiv, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, though he does not appear to have yet been an effective middleman.
The U.S. Treasury Department initially prepared to impose penalties on Abramovich early in March, to be announced with sanctions from the United Kingdom and the European Union, but was told by the White House National Security Council to pause, the Journal reported.
As the Treasury was preparing penalties, Biden and Zelensky spoke over the phone about the scope of sanctions on Russia and penalties aimed at Abramovich, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the call, though other British and European leaders told the Journal they were unaware of the conversation or Zelensky’s request.
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.
Despite the apparent request, Abramovich has not been very effective at facilitating peace talks, the Journal said.
As part of penalties targeting President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the U.K., the EU, Canada, Australia and Switzerland have imposed sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel restrictions, on Abramovich, who the British government described as a close ally of Putin.
A spokeswoman for Abramovich said late last month that he was involved in helping Ukraine achieve a peaceful resolution with Russia upon Ukraine’s request. Abramovich was in Belarus in late February when a round of talks between Russia and Ukraine took place. Alexander Rodnyansky, the father of one of Zelensky’s aides, said Abramovich had limited influence over Putin, but was involved because he was the only Russian who accepted Ukraine’s request for help, the Financial Times reported. He is the only oligarch known to be acting as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.
$7.1 billion. That’s Abramovich’s estimated net worth as of Wednesday, according to Forbes. Abramovich is the world’s No.142 richest person thanks to his stakes in steel giant Evraz, metals firm Norilsk Nickel and English soccer team Chelsea FC. He said earlier in the month that he was selling Chelsea FC. He also holds Israeli and Portuguese passports. His real estate holdings outside Russia total more than $500 million, including Kensington Palace Gardens in London, and he owns several jets, yachts and a helicopter.