Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government and had his assets frozen – including Chelsea Football Club.
Abramovich is one of seven Russian oligarchs to be targeted with new sanctions, which also include travel bans, in connection with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The move, announced on Thursday morning, means Abramovich’s planned sale of Chelsea, one of the top football teams in Europe, has been put on hold. The club is now prevented from signing players, agreeing new contracts, or even selling new tickets or merchandise.
The British government has given the club a special licence allowing it to fulfil this season’s remaining fixtures and pay staff. But only existing ticket holders will be allowed into games.
Abramovich is worth an estimated £10bn and owns a £150m London mansion, two super-yachts and multiple private jets. Chelsea FC is estimated to be worth £2.4bn.
Among the other high profile “pro-Kremlin oligarchs” targeted in the new wave of sanctions are Olag Deripaska, owner of aluminium producers EN+ Group, and Igor Sechin, chair of oil company Rosneft. They are accused of benefiting from Putin’s regime and being “associated with a person with a person who is or has been involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine,.
“Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”
And UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, tweeted. “Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account. Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea and its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club & the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.
“To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club.
“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league & clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended. Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.”