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.”

Abramovich, Ukraine Negotiators Suffer Suspected Poisoning: Report

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. Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators were targets of a suspected poison attack, potentially by Moscow hardliners seeking to sabotage peace talks, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The billionaire businessman, recently slapped with sanctions by Western nations seeking to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine, has reportedly been shuttling between Kyiv, Moscow and other negotiation sites.

After a meeting in Ukraine’s capital, Abramovich and at least two senior Ukrainian negotiators developed symptoms including red eyes, painfully watery eyes, and peeling skin on their face and hands, the sources said according to the American newspaper.

READ ALSO: Russia To Limit Entry For ‘Unfriendly’ States

It was not clear exactly who may have conducted the apparent attack, but those targeted blamed hardliners in Moscow seeking to disrupt ongoing talks to end the war, the Journal said.

The conditions of Abramovich and the other negotiators have improved and their lives are not in danger, the people said.

“It was not intended to kill, it was just a warning,” Christo Grozev, an investigator with open-source collective Bellingcat, said in the Journal after studying the incident.

Grozev, who determined after an investigation that Kremlin agents poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent in 2020, saw images of the effects of the apparent Abramovich attack, but no samples could be collected in time for forensic experts to detect poison, the paper reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that his government had received offers of support from Russian businessmen, including Abramovich, who owns and is seeking to sell Chelsea Football Club and has had longstanding links to Putin.

Zelensky told journalists that the businessmen had said they wanted to “do something” and “help somehow” to de-escalate Russia’s military assault on Ukraine that has left thousands dead.

Zelensky did not mention a suspected poisoning, and according to the Journal a presidential spokesman had no information about such an attack.

Abramovich aides have not responded to an AFP request for comment about the alleged poisoning.

Western countries including the United States and the EU have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including placing oligarchs and other individuals close to Putin on sanctions lists.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported Zelensky asked US President Joe Biden to hold off on sanctioning Abramovich, arguing that the Russian billionaire could play a role in negotiating a peace deal with Moscow.

 

AFP

Abramovich’s Superyacht Cruises In To Montenegro Marina

Superyacht Solaris, owned by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, which is under UK sanctions, sails towards the luxury yacht marina Porto Montenegro, near Montenegrin city of Tivat, on the Adriatic coast, on March 12, 2022. SAVO PRELEVIC / AFP
Superyacht Solaris, owned by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, which is under UK sanctions, sails towards the luxury yacht marina Porto Montenegro, near Montenegrin city of Tivat, on the Adriatic coast, on March 12, 2022. SAVO PRELEVIC / AFP

 

A superyacht belonging to the Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea football club sanctioned over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine anchored off Montenegro Saturday, an AFP photographer said. 

Roman Abramovich’s 140-metre-long (460-feet-long) Solaris cruised into the Porto Montenegro marina on the Balkan country’s Adriatic coastline.

Local media who have been monitoring the ship’s movements over recent days on maritime tracking websites said the boat left the Spanish Mediterranean port of Barcelona on March 8.

The United Kingdom on Thursday hit Abramovich with an assets freeze and travel ban as part of new sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs it described as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. The football club owner has denied any association.

READ ALSO: Abramovich Disqualified As Chelsea Director By Premier League

Canada followed suit the next day, saying he and four other individuals would “be prevented from dealings in Canada and their assets will be frozen”.

The 55-year-old businessman, who has often been reported to be cruising off Montenegro and neighbouring Croatia, is rumoured to own half a dozen yachts.

The UK sanctions also targeted Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

Montenegro media have reported that one of Deripaska’s boats, Sputnik, was spotted leaving Porto Montenegro on Friday. The vessel is often seen accompanying his own superyacht, Clio.

Abramovich had already announced his intention to sell Chelsea before the UK sanctions, with a host of potential buyers declaring their interest in a club that have won 19 major trophies since he bought it in 2003.

The UK government is still open to a sale but would have to approve a new licence, on the condition no profit would go to the Russian.

 

AFP

Abramovich Disqualified As Chelsea Director By Premier League

In this file photo, 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. PHOTO: Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

Roman Abramovich has been disqualified as a Chelsea director by the Premier League board after the British government sanctioned the Russian billionaire.

Chelsea owner Abramovich was one of seven more oligarchs sanctioned this week by the UK following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European champions have been placed under tough restrictions due to the sanctions on Abramovich.

Chelsea are unable to sign players, renew contracts or sell tickets to matches, with limits on the amount of money they are allowed to spend on travel to away games.

Now Premier League chiefs have taken action against Abramovich, who is described by the government as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle despite his denials of any association.

“Following the imposition of sanctions by the UK Government, the Premier League board has disqualified Roman Abramovich as a director of Chelsea Football Club,” a Premier League statement said on Saturday.

READ ALSO: US, Allies To End Normal Trade Relations With Russia

“The board’s decision does not impact on the club’s ability to train and play its fixtures, as set out under the terms of a license issued by the Government, which expires on May 31 2022.”

Abramovich had already announced his intention to sell Chelsea, with a host of potential buyers declaring their interest in a club that have won 19 major trophies since he bought the side in 2003.

The government is still open to a sale but would have to approve a new licence, on the proviso no profit would go to the Russian, who has bankrolled the club to the tune of around £1.5 billion ($2 billion).

Chelsea are already feeling the impact of the sanctions, with shirt sponsor Three suspending its £40 million deal.

The club’s official training wear partner Trivago said Friday that it was sticking with Chelsea despite the “challenging” situation.

Chelsea reportedly saw several credit cards temporarily frozen on Friday while they negotiate the terms of their special operating license with the government.

Thomas Tuchel’s side host Newcastle on Sunday as they look to cement their hold on third place in the Premier League.

AFP

Chelsea Owner Roman Abramovich Hit By UK Sanctions

In this file photo taken on May 8, 2017 Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich waves during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge in London. Ian KINGTON / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 8, 2017 Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich waves during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge in London. PHOTO: Ian KINGTON / AFP

Chelsea Football Club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich was on Thursday hit with a UK assets freeze and travel ban, throwing his plans to sell the European and world club champions into disarray.

The billionaire owner of the English Premier League side was one of seven oligarchs slapped with restrictions over Russia’s Ukraine invasion, including his former business partner Oleg Deripaska.

Others sanctioned were Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin, whom the British government described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “right-hand man”, and the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller.

Also on the list were VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Transneft president Nikolai Tokarev and Bank Rossiya chairman Dmitri Lebedev.

London said the seven have a collective net worth of about £15 billion ($19.7 billion, 17.8 billion euros) and described them all as part of Putin’s inner circle.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of delaying action against wealthy Russians, and turning a blind eye to Russian money that has coursed through London since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He called the sanctions “the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people” while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said they showed that “oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy and 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,” she added.

Chelsea, which can still operate under a special licence, indicated the restrictions on the club were too harsh and said it wanted talks with the government “for the licence to be amended”.

The Premier League said it would “work with the club and the government to ensure the season will proceed as planned and in line with the government’s intention”.

 

– Special licence –

Speculation has swirled since Russia’s invasion about whether Abramovich would be included in any UK sanctions.

He announced last week he was selling Chelsea, which he bought in 2003 and bankrolled its successes at domestic and European level.

The British government estimated his net worth at £9.4 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.

Selling the club or transferring players were not included on the list of permitted activities, scuppering Abramovich’s plans to offload the club.

A UK sanctions official told reporters: “The licence that’s been issued right now does not allow for the sale of the club.

“It will be for the Treasury to consider the further application for a licence to sell the club,” he added, but said no request for that had yet been made.

Johnson’s spokesman said the government was “open” to a sale, subject to a new licence being approved but said “under no circumstance” should Abramovich profit from it.

Shares in Russian steel giant Evraz, of which Abramovich is the major shareholder, plunged almost 12 percent on the London Stock Exchange Thursday morning until trading in the company was suspended.

 

– Yachts and planes –

Abramovich announced last week he had made the “incredibly difficult” decision to sell Chelsea and pledged that proceeds would go to victims of the Ukraine war.

According to reports, Abramovich was still holding out for a bid in the region of £3 billion for the club he bought for £140 million.

Abramovich, 55, was one of the businessmen working in the shadows following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, seizing control of lucrative assets once held by the Soviet state, at bargain prices.

His property holdings include a 15-bedroom mansion in London’s exclusive Kensington area. He also owns one of the world’s largest yachts, the 533-foot (162-metre) Eclipse.

Abramovich is also subject to transport sanctions, which have banned Russian aircraft from flying or landing in the UK and give the government powers to remove planes belonging to designated Russian individuals and entities.

Russian ships have been banned from UK ports.

Abramovich changed the face and profile of English football when he took over Chelsea, turning the perennial also-rans into a European powerhouse and ushering in the era of mass money in the domestic game.

Chelsea have won 19 major trophies in the Abramovich era, including their first two Champions League crowns and five Premier League titles.

AFP

What Do Abramovich Sanctions Mean For Chelsea?

In this file photo taken on May 21, 2017 Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich applauds, as players celebrate their league title win at the end of the Premier League football match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London. Ben STANSALL / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 21, 2017 Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich applauds, as players celebrate their league title win at the end of the Premier League football match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London.

 

 

The future of European champions Chelsea has been plunged into doubt after Russian owner Roman Abramovich was hit Thursday with UK government sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich has bankrolled the most successful era in the Blues’ history since taking charge in 2003 — the club have won five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues among 19 major trophies.

The billionaire — described by the UK government as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle — had already signalled his intention to sell the club last week as pressure mounted.

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorris said the priority was to “hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account”.

Chelsea, who are in Premier League action against Norwich later on Thursday, have been given a special licence to continue to operate but nevertheless face tough restrictions.

They said they would seek talks with the government to amend the licence to “allow the club to operate as normal as possible.”

AFP Sport looks at what Abramovich’s sanctions mean for the club.

 

(FILES) 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. (Photo by Justin TALLIS / AFP)

Sale on hold
The freezing of Abramovich’s assets means any sale of the club is on hold for now.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed a new licence would need to be granted for the club to change hands and in a manner that would not allow the Russian to profit.

A number of interested bidders have signalled their interest in the club, although many believed Abramovich’s reported £3 billion ($4 billion) asking price was unrealistic.

Season to be completed
The current licence given to the club to allow their day-to-day operations to continue is due to expire on May 31, after the end of the season.

Chelsea confirmed both their men’s and women’s teams would fulfil their fixtures on Thursday.

In a statement the Premier League said: “The league will now work with the club and the government to ensure the season will proceed as planned and in line with the government’s intention.”

Chelsea still have 12 Premier League games left to play this season, are into the FA Cup quarter-finals and hold a 2-0 first leg lead over Lille in the Champions League last 16.

Thomas Tuchel’s side sit third in the Premier League and are well on course to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Players can be paid
Chelsea’s licence allows the club to continue paying staff and costs for the hosting of matches at Stamford Bridge.

However, travel costs for away games have been capped at £20,000 per match, which could cause issues for away matches in the Champions League, with Chelsea set to travel to French club Lille next week.

No signings or new contracts
Chelsea can continue to pay money they owe for transfer agreements made prior to March 10, 2022.

However, no exception has been granted for the recruitment of new players or agreeing new contracts.

Chelsea risk losing Captain Cesar Azpilicueta and key defender Antonio Rudiger, among those out of contract at the end of the season, on free transfers.

No new tickets or merchandise sales
Season ticket holders at Stamford Bridge will be allowed to attend matches, but no ticket or merchandise sales are permitted.

That could mean away fans are shut out of Stamford Bridge and Chelsea supporters are blocked from travelling to away games.

The club shop at Stamford Bridge has been shut down.

 

A pedestrian walks past a mansion owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in London, on March 4, 2022. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)

 

TV/prize money frozen
The money due to the club from highly lucrative television contracts for the Premier League and Champions League can be paid to Chelsea.

However, that cash is to be frozen, raising the question of how the club will continue to meet its payroll demands in the coming months.

Despite winning the Champions League last season, Chelsea made a £153 million loss in the year to June 30, 2021.

That was due to a £309 million wage bill even before the club-record signing of Romelu Lukaku for £97 million in August.

Chelsea’s shirt sponsor, telecommunications company Three, are reportedly reviewing their £40 million-a-season deal with the club.

“The concern might be what happens if Chelsea’s cash reserves are insufficient to pay their wage bill,” football finance expert Kieran Maguire told the BBC.

Chelsea Sale On Hold Due To UK Sanctions On Abramovich

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 13, 2011, A general view of Stamford bridge is pictured before the start of the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen at Stamford Bridge in London. 
Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Roman Abramovich’s hopes of selling European champions Chelsea were put on hold on Thursday after the UK government hit the Russian billionaire with an assets freeze.

The finance ministry said restrictions “apply to any entities that are owned or controlled by Roman Abramovich”, adding: “This means Chelsea Football Club is now also subject to an asset freeze under UK financial sanctions.”

More to follow . . .. 

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.”

Abramovich, Deripaska Among Seven Oligarchs In New UK Sanctions

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 03, 2015 Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich (3L) attends the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in London. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / 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, the government announced.

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.”

AFP

Tuchel Slams Chelsea Fans For Singing Abramovich’s Name In Ukraine Applause

Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel takes a training session on the eve of the UEFA Super Cup football match between Chelsea and Villarreal at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland on August 10, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP
In this file photo,  Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel takes a training session on the eve of the UEFA Super Cup football match between Chelsea and Villarreal at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland on August 10, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Thomas Tuchel has slammed the Chelsea fans who chanted Roman Abramovich’s name during a minute’s applause for war-torn Ukraine before Saturday’s 4-0 win against Burnley.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Premier League clubs held a pre-match moment of solidarity with the country before every game this weekend and the majority of fans joined the applause at Turf Moor.

However, a section of the travelling Chelsea support interrupted the applause to sing the name of the club’s Russian owner.

Abramovich this week announced he will sell the Champions League holders amid speculation he could be sanctioned by the British government for his alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, Chelsea boss Tuchel was disappointed with the fans who chose not to respect the show of support for Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Man City Humiliate United, Extend Premier League Lead

“It’s not the moment to do this. If we show solidarity we show solidarity and we should do it together,” he said.

“We take the knee together. If an important person from our club or another club unfortunately dies we have a minute of respect.

“It is not the moment to give other messages. It’s the moment to show respect. We want to do this. As a club we need our fans to commit to this minute of applause.

“We do it for Ukraine and there is no second opinion about this situation. They have our thoughts and our support and we should stand together. It’s not the moment for other messages.”

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel touches the trophy on the stage at the end of the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup final football match against Brazil’s Palmeiras at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 12, 2022. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Chelsea have won 19 major trophies in Abramovich’s 19-year reign, including five Premier League titles, two Champions League, and the Club World Cup.

Abramovich is reportedly seeking £3 billion ($4 billion) to off-load Chelsea, with Turkish billionaire Muhsin Bayrak the latest wealthy investor to declare his interest in a potential deal.

Swiss tycoon Hansjorg Wyss and American businessman Todd Boehly, a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, have reportedly formed a partnership with a view to making a bid.

AFP

Abramovich To Sell Chelsea With ‘Net Proceeds’ Going To Ukraine War Victims

In this file photo taken on May 8, 2017 Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich waves during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge in London. Ian KINGTON / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 8, 2017 Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich waves during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge in London. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich said on Wednesday he had made the “incredibly difficult” decision to sell the Premier League club, pledging that proceeds would go to victims of the war in Ukraine.

The billionaire believes it is in the “best interest” of the Champions League holders if he parts ways with the club he has transformed since he bought it in 2003.

The dramatic development comes days after Abramovich said he was handing over control of Chelsea to trustees of its charitable foundation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart,” Abramovich said in a statement.

“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.”

It is a seismic moment for English football after nearly two decades during which Abramovich’s team has consistently challenged for the sport’s top honours.

Chelsea have won 19 major trophies in the Abramovich era, including their first two Champions League crowns and five Premier League titles.

READ ALSO: Blinken To Visit Poland, Baltics, Moldova In Support Of Ukraine

But the 55-year-old’s reign will come to an end in the fall-out from Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

Abramovich, alleged to have close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has not been named on a growing British sanctions list targeting Russian banks, businesses and pro-Kremlin tycoons.

Bu the Chelsea owner’s concern about potential seizing of assets is understood to have sparked his move to off-load the Blues.

Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and US investor Todd Boehly, a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, are reported to be two of the parties now preparing a joint bid for the Premier League giants.

Wyss, 86, told Swiss newspaper Blick he had been offered the chance to buy the London club because Abramovich wanted “to get rid of Chelsea quickly” before potential political sanctions took hold.

It is believed Abramovich’s asking price for Chelsea will be around £3 billion ($4 billion), with American bank the Raine Group reported to have been asked to handle the sale.

– Privilege of a lifetime’

Chelsea’s debt to Abramovich currently stands at around £1.5 billion but he will not ask for loans to be repaid, while he is also said to be set to sell his London property portfolio.

Abramovich, who made a rare appearance to watch Chelsea win the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi last month, has pledged to donate any net proceeds from the sale to help victims of the war in Ukraine.

“The sale of the club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process,” he said.

“I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and club.

“Moreover, I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated.

“The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.”

Abramovich paid £140 million to buy Chelsea and the shrewd appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager helped shatter Manchester United and Arsenal’s stranglehold on the Premier League.

He announced the impending sale less than an hour before Chelsea’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Championship side Luton.

Speaking before the match, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, told the BBC: “There are some things around the club and within the club we can not influence, so we were pretty busy preparing this game.”

Abramovich said he hopes to make one more visit to Stamford Bridge to say goodbye before the curtain falls on his 19-year reign.

“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner,” he said.

He added: “It has been a privilege of a lifetime to be part of Chelsea FC and I am proud of all our joint achievements. Chelsea Football Club and its supporters will always be in my heart.”

 

Chelsea Condemn ‘Horrific And Devastating’ Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva (3L) celebrates with his teammates and supporters after scoring the second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on January 23, 2022. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Chelsea has described the latest round of conflicts between Russia and Ukraine as “horrific and devasting, ” days after Vladimir Putin declared a military action against Volodymyr Zelensky’s country. 

“The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating. Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace,” the club said in a statement on Sunday.

Before now,  owner Roman Abramovich had handed over the affairs of the club to trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation.

This comes amid UK sanctions against Russian entities after the invasion of Ukraine. Mr Abramovich is a Russian oligarch, one of the groups targeted by western sanctions.

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There had been uncertainty over Mr Abramovich’s continued control of one of the UK’s most successful clubs amid the crisis.

“During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the Club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities,” Mr Abramovich said in a statement on Saturday.

“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.

“I believe that currently, they are in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff, and fans.”

‘Nobody Expected This’

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel touches the trophy on the stage at the end of the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup final football match against Brazil’s Palmeiras at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 12, 2022. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Blues manager Thomas Tuchel admitted on Friday that uncertainty over Abramovich’s future as the owner was weighing on his club ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final against Liverpool.

“We should not pretend this is not an issue,” he said. “The situation in general for me and for my staff, the players, is horrible.

“Nobody expected this. It’s pretty unreal, like I said it’s clouding our minds, it’s clouding our excitement towards the final.”