Abramovich: The Surprise Participant In Russia-Ukraine Talks

This handout video grab taken from a footage released on March 29, 2022 by the Turkish Presidency shows Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich (C, 2nd row) during the first Russia and Ukraine face-to-face talks in weeks at Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul.. (Photo by Handout / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP)

 

 

When Turkey hosted talks between Russia and Ukraine last week, a familiar but unexpected face was seen among the officials and diplomats gathered in a wing of the former imperial Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. 

It was Roman Abramovich, the billionaire Russian tycoon and owner of Chelsea Football Club, who has long sought to strike a balance between cordial ties with the Kremlin and a jet-setting lifestyle in the West.

What was he doing at the Istanbul talks?

“Abramovich participated in the negotiations as a member of the Russian delegation,” explained Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He said Abramovich’s presence indicated that the oligarch was “trusted” by Moscow.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Abramovich had been making “sincere” efforts for peace since the first days of the war, adding that he had made a “positive” contribution to diplomatic efforts.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that while Abramovich was not an official member of the delegation, he was involved in “ensuring certain contacts” between the Russian and Ukrainian sides, for which he had approval from both parties.

Adding to the intrigue, the Wall Street Journal last week reported that Abramovich had travelled to Kyiv earlier in March to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky. While there, he suffered a suspected poisoning attack that temporarily affected his eyesight.

‘Right side of history’

Analysts say Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a personal disaster for Abramovich, leaving him sanctioned by the EU and UK, forced to sell Chelsea and seeing billions wiped off the value of his assets.

He has every personal interest in seeing a peaceful end to the conflict and possibly performing a role that could allow him to win back favour in the Western capitals that once welcomed him so ardently.

Alexander Baunov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Abramovich’s presence at the talks had “various possible explanations” but could be linked to “reparations” in rebuilding areas destroyed in Ukraine, possibly using private money.

“For Abramovich, it’s also a welcome chance to be on the right side of history,” he added.

For critics, the situation has merely exposed the reality that Abramovich is a Kremlin-friendly oligarch, who managed to build up his wealth thanks to close ties with President Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich has “had privileged access to the president and has maintained very good relations with him. This connection with the Russian leader helped him to maintain his considerable wealth,” the EU said last month when it announced sanctions against Abramovich and other Russia oligarchs over Ukraine.

In a possible bid to avoid being hit by sanctions, two luxury superyachts owned by Abramovich –- the over 160-metre Eclipse and 140-metre Solaris –- have docked in Turkey, which has not joined the European sanctions.

 ‘PR stunt?’

Maria Pevchikh, investigative chief at Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation, described Abramovich as “the most faithful and devoted of Putin’s oligarchs”. She said they had profited from a tacit deal with the Kremlin to stay out of politics.

His participation in the talks “looks like a PR stunt to me”, she said.

In a surprising career turn, Abramovich served from 2001 to 2008 as governor of the sparsely populated Chukotka region in the far northeast of Russia, pouring his own money into one of the country’s least developed regions.

Abramovich used to be a co-owner, along with the government, of Russia’s Channel One television. The channel has earned notoriety during the invasion for its pro-Kremlin reporting and for being the target of an on-air protest by a disgruntled journalist.

He reduced his stake to 20 percent and then sold off that final portion to a Russian state-owned bank in March 2019.

According to Forbes magazine, the invasion of Ukraine has resulted in Abramovich’s net worth being whittled down to $8.3 billion (7.6 billion euros), compared to almost $15 billion before the assault started.

“And he likely has only limited access to that,” it said, describing the invasion as a “personal, financial and now physical disaster” for Abramovich.

‘Rehabilitate himself’

Famously publicity-shy and never giving interviews, Abramovich announced in a rare personal statement on March 2 that he was selling Chelsea Football Club, although the UK sanctions mean he cannot profit from the sale.

In a carefully worded statement that contained no criticism of the Russian invasion, he said then that a foundation would be set up “for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine”, including their immediate needs as well as “supporting the long-term work of recovery”.

“The most important thing is that Putin trusts him. But Zelensky can also trust him,” Konstantin Kalachev, a Russian political scientist who once worked with the ruling party, told AFP.

“Abramovich must rehabilitate himself in the West. He wants to keep his status as a citizen of the world. I doubt very much that he would want to isolate himself in Russia.”

UK Government Freezes Abramovich’s Assets

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 15, 2016 Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich takes his seat ahead of the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge in London. Abramovich was hit with an assets freeze and travel ban on March 10, 2022, as part of new UK government sanctions targeting seven Russian oligarchs.
Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich was on Thursday hit with an assets freeze and travel ban as part of new UK government sanctions targeting seven Russian oligarchs.

Among others sanctioned are leading industrialist Oleg Deripaska, Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin and the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.

Speculation has swirled for weeks about whether Abramovich would be included on the targeted action against Russian billionaires perceived to be close to the Kremlin.

Abramovich announced last week that he was selling Chelsea, after buying the English Premier League side in 2003, and bankrolled its successes at domestic and European level.

The UK government estimated his net worth at £9.4 billion (11.1 billion euros, $12.2 billion), but said it was mitigating the effect of the sanctions on Chelsea by allowing the club to continue to operate.

A special licence “authorises a number of football-related activities”, the government said in a statement.

“This includes permissions for the club to continue playing matches and other football-related activity which will, in turn, protect the Premier League, the wider football pyramid, loyal fans and other clubs,” it added.

Deripaska is Abramovich’s one-time business partner, while officials described Sechin as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “right-hand man”.

The four others — Miller, VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Transneft president Nikolai Tokarev and Bank Rossiya chairman Dmitri Lebedev — are part of his inner circle,

Collectively, the seven have a net worth of about £15 billion, the statement read.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the sanctions “the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people”.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added: “Today’s sanctions show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society.

“With their close links to Putin, they are complicit in his aggression. The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame.”

Chelsea FC Teams Up With 1xBet

 

Chelsea Football Club today introduces 1xBet as their official Betting Partner for the next three seasons.

Founded in 2007, 1xBet is one of the leading online betting companies in Asia, Africa and Europe, with markets available on more than 1,000 daily events, including football, tennis and rugby.

The relationship with Chelsea will provide 1xBet with greater visibility worldwide, and particularly in the UK, as the betting company seeks to increase market share.

Chris Townsend OBE, Chelsea Commercial Director, said: ‘‘We are excited to welcome 1xBet to Chelsea Football Club as our new global betting partner. 1xBet are one of the most rapidly developing companies in the betting industry and we look forward to supporting them in their endeavour to increase brand awareness within the UK and around the world.’

Alex Sommers, spokesman of 1xBet, added: ‘It’s a big honour for us to become a partner of such a great football club as Chelsea. We guarantee that Chelsea fans will see a variety of interesting and engaging activities from the partnership over the next three years. And of course, we will fly our blue flag as high as possible!’

To celebrate the launch of the partnership, 1xBet will be running a ‘Guess the Score’ competition throughout the 2019/20 season. UK-based fans who correctly predict the outcome of Chelsea’s Premier League games, using a specially dedicated competition page on chelseafc.com, will be entered into a draw to win tickets to Chelsea matches, signed club merchandise and Stamford Bridge Megastore vouchers.

John Terry To Leave Chelsea At End Of Season

John Terry To Leave Chelsea At End Of SeasonChelsea Football Club and their captain, John Terry, jointly announced on Monday that the defender would leave the club at the end of the season.

Expressing their gratitude to the 36-year-old, the Blues said he has given them at least two decades of dedicated and exceptional service.

They added that he also displayed the utmost pride at wearing the Chelsea shirt, something he has done on 713 occasions since his debut in 1998, scoring 66 goals.

Terry is Chelsea’s third highest all-time appearance-maker, and has captained the club a record 578 times.

He said he would decide on his future in due course, stating his commitment to helping the club achieve success in the ongoing season.

“After 22 years, there is so much to say and so many people to thank at this great football club. From coaches, team-mates and staff to the fans who have given me so much support down the years, I can’t thank you enough.

“There will be opportunities for me to speak further about this over the coming weeks. I will decide on my future in due course, but for now I am committed to helping the team achieve success this season,” he said.

Conte Commends Chelsea Players’ Work Rate

Antonio Conte, Chelsea, The Manager of Chelsea Football Club, Antonio Conte, has expressed delight over the work rate of his players during training.

“I am very happy because I am finding the players with the right attitude and the right behaviour,’ Conte said.

“They are great workers and this is very important because we need to have a bit of time to go into a new idea of football, and a new method of work with different tactical, physical and mental aspects,” Conte told the club’s website.

“It’s also important to have a bit of time for me to know the players and for the players to know me.

“In the Euros I had a finished team. Now we are building. In this moment it’s normal I have a bit of difficulty with this change because with Chelsea we are beginning our season.

“I am getting to know a lot of new players and I’m bringing them a new idea of football. We need a bit of time but I saw a lot of positive things this week.

“And then today Fabregas, Pedro, Cuadrado, Cahill and Azpi arrived,” added Conte.

“This is important because I need to have the complete group to work, and to transfer my ideas to all the players.’

Commenting on Diego Costa, Conte said that the Spaniard is an important asset for the team.

“Diego is our player. He is a fantastic player, a player with a fundamental importance and there is no problem.

“He stays with us, he is working very hard, he is very happy to work with his teammates and with me in the new idea of football. He is a Chelsea player.

“He is an important player, a very strong player, one of the best in the world, and I am sure when he goes into our ideas he will score a lot of goals for us.”

Chelsea Manager, Mourinho Condemns Paris Metro Racist Incident

ChelseaChelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho, has spoken about the incident on the Paris Metro earlier in the week.

At Friday’s pre-match media conference at Cobham, Mourinho was asked for his thoughts on what happened in the French capital after a new club statement had been read.

A man was stopped from boarding a Paris train by what appeared to be Chelsea football fans chanting racist slogans.

He condemned the act and dissociated the club from the perpetrators.

“This is not Chelsea,’ the manager said. “They are not Chelsea.

“Chelsea is the owner, the manager, the players, the people that work here and the true Chelsea supporters.

“We feel ashamed but maybe we shouldn’t because I refuse to be connected with these people. I am connected with Chelsea and the many good things Chelsea defend and represent.

“I left Chelsea in 2007 and I couldn’t wait for the moment to be back, and it’s not because of people like this that I wanted to be back.

“I felt ashamed when I knew what happened but I repeat: I am a proud Chelsea Football Club manager because I know what the club is and these people don’t represent it.

“The dressing room reacted the same way I reacted: with disappointment, condemning the situation and supporting the gentleman involved, but always with the feeling that we feel ashamed but maybe we shouldn’t because we don’t belong to these people, and these people don’t belong to us.

“All these years, even without me, I am sure this dressing room was always a dressing room with big principles of equality. We had everything, absolutely everything – not just [different] races but also [different] religions.

“Chelsea since minute one after the incident are doing absolutely everything because [we have] zero tolerance. Apart from that we have to keep feeling that our club is a great club and our club has no space for these kinds of people.

“We feel very sorry about it, we want to fight it and we apologise to the gentleman.”

The club confirmed Souleymane, the gentleman involved in the incident in the Paris Metro, will, along with his family, be invited to the return leg against PSG at Stamford Bridge next month.

“I would support the idea even not knowing that the gentleman likes football,” Mourinho said.

“He would feel what Chelsea is. At this moment maybe he has the wrong idea of what Chelsea Football Club is.

“I don’t know if the gentleman loves football but for sure he would love to feel that the people [that were involved] in the incident are not Chelsea Football Club.”

Debate: Return Of Special One, Good or Bad For Chelsea?

Please, do not call me arrogant because what I say is true; I am European Champion, I am not one out of the bottom. I think I am a special one – Jose Mourinho

On Monday, Chelsea Football Club announced the appointment of Jose Mourinho as First Team Manager.

Mourinho signed a four-year contract and will return to the club where he won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups between 2004 and 2007.

Many football analysts have argued that while Jose Mourinho rebuilt the side that had finished second under Claudio Ranieri, and turned Chelsea into the best side in England, it may be different this time round.

Mourinho wants to call the shots but the 2013 version of the Blues is not the same beast as the 2004 incarnation.

What is evident, unquestioned, is that Mourinho inherits a small and unbalanced squad, which must be significantly replenished.

In this debate, two sport analysts examine the significance of Mourinho’s return to Chelsea.

Mikel Dispels Injury Rumour

Nigerian International Mikel Obi has countered news that he may not be featuring in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations which will be starting January 19th due to injury which he sustained during a club game.

The Chelsea player suffered a knee injury in his club game against Norwich City which confined the midfielder to the reserve sit of the Stamford bridge club in their last three games but Mikel has been vigorously involved in the Super Eagles training going on in a training camp in Faro, Portugal, on Sunday.

According Mikel, he had a knock but he is very fit now, so no fears about injury as he is ready for the Nations cup.

“I’m okay. I had a knock two weeks ago and was told to rest for some time, but now I am fit and I actually started training two days ago with the Chelsea first team,” said Mikel.

“So there should be no fears about any injury. I’m ready for the Nations Cup.”

Chelsea on the verge of signing Moses

Chelsea are set to sign Nigeria forward Victor Moses from Wigan after the European champions finally met the Latics’ asking price.

The Blues had seen four bids for Moses rejected by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan during the course of a fractious transfer saga that had lasted since the end of last season.

Whelan had infuriated Chelsea by speaking publicly about the negotiations in a bid to drive up the price.

But Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo is on the verge of getting his man at the fifth attempt after Wigan confirmed they have accepted an improved offer and have given the 21-year-old permission to discuss a contract with the west London club.

“The club can confirm that after four unsuccessful bids from Chelsea for Victor Moses, a fifth bid has today finally met the valuation and terms set by Wigan Athletic and been accepted. The player has been given permission to speak with Chelsea,” a statement on Wigan’s website confirmed.

It has been reported that Wigan were demanding around £9 million for Moses, who joined the Latics from Crystal Palace in 2010 and has risen to prominence after a series of impressive displays last season.

FIRST TEAM ACTION

At Chelsea the impression lingers that his role in proceedings would be supposedly far less significant, particularly as he competes with more exotic and heralded summer recruits.

Up front, Fernando Torres will be allowed to try and rediscover his best form. His £50 million price tag has brought unrivalled pressure but also unrivalled patience from club and owner, meaning those looking to usurp him could be waiting a long time.

On the flanks, Hazard’s sparkling start to life in the Premier League has made him, for the moment, what Jose Mourinho might call an “Untouchable”, while Oscar and Marin will be given plenty of opportunity to adjust to the English game. Di Matteo’s use of Ramires and Ryan Bertrand as more conservative wing options would also likely work against Moses.

His choice, then could not be more stark: To continue a virtually guaranteed footballing education on the pitch with Wigan, or to take a leap of faith, and hope he will be inspired rather than overwhelmed by the level of talent which would surround him at his new club.

Moses has been at this crossroads before. In January 2010, as a 19-year-old wonderkid at Crystal Palace, he opted to spurn the reported interest of some of Europe’s elite clubs to join the less glamorous but less intimidating Latics.

Pregnant woman dies, several injured as fans celebrate Chelsea’s victory in Lagos

At least one person was reportedly killed while several others sustained serious injuries during Chelsea victory celebration on Saturday.

The deceased, who was identified as a  pregnant lady, was killed in the Ikotun area of the state by gunmen who took advantage of the jubilation to rob innocent residents.

According to residents  “The entire area was rowdy after the match and some gunmen, who stormed the area, went into the shop of one pregnant lady and robbed her. They shot her before fleeing. She was rushed to a nearby hospital but died soon afterwards.”

In Somolu area, a man was reportedly stabbed in the eye after being unable to pay up his bet.

An eyewitness, Mr. Adewunmi Brown,  “Before the match began, I already knew there would be trouble because the last time Chelsea won, there was pandemonium. So, on Saturday, I was at a pub on Kadupe Street. After Chelsea won, two guys began arguing about money and before we knew it, one stabbed the other in the eye. I quickly ran away into my compound and locked the gate but the entire area was filled with jubilation. Some of the fans, who were obviously drunk, took off their clothes and were roaming the streets naked.”

According to Punch newspaper, another man, Obi, was also stabbed in the eye for mocking football fans in Orile area of the state. A resident, Matthew Ajie, said after Chelsea had won the match, Obi was insulting the fans, calling them hooligans for the manner in which they were celebrating.

In Ojota area, some jubilant fans were said to have blocked a part of the Ikorodu Expressway to extort money from motorists.

Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Jaiyeoba, said he was not aware of any death or pandemonium associated with the match, saying that the police had put in place measures to forestall the breakdown of law and order.

 

 

 

 

 

Mikel Obi dedicates FA Cup to Yekini

Footballer,  Mikel Obi, has dedicated his FA Cup winners’ medal to late football icon Rashidi Yekini, and also promised to honour him during the Champions League Final on May 19.  

According to Mikel, “I would like to dedicate my FA Cup medal to him, and if the manager picks me, I will also try to do something to honour him during the Champions League Final.”

 

“He was one of those that I looked up to as inspiration to be a footballer, and I was devastated to hear what happened to him…I saw some of the clips from the 1994 World Cup and his name was among those that we used to hear all the time,” Mikel disclosed in an interview with KickoffNigeria.com

“I can’t say what I will do yet, but he deserves every honour and this is just my own little way of showing respect to him for what he did for this country.” he added. Mikel Obi belongs to the Chelsea club and played in the game that fetched Chelsea a triumph against Wembley club on Saturday.