Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government in the latest crackdown on Russian assets in the country.
The Chelsea Football club owner is one of seven wealthy Russian individuals who had sanctions placed on them by ministers on Thursday.
Mr Abramovich will have his assets frozen and will be prohibited from carrying out any transactions with UK individuals and businesses. He will also face a travel ban and further transport sanctions.
Chelsea will be given a licence to allow it to continue with “football-related activities” so games can still go ahead. However, under the conditions of the current licence, the club cannot be sold.
The UK government said that Mr Abramovich “has had a close relationship [with Putin] for decades” and had obtained “financial benefit or other material benefit” from the Russian president and government. Something the Chelsea owner has previously denied.
They added that the businessman “is or has been involved in destabilising Ukraine” via Evraz plc, a steel manufacturing company that Abramovich has a significant shareholding in. The government alleged that Evraz is “potentially supplying steel to the Russian military”.
British culture secretary Nadine Dorries said: “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 and the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.”
She added that the special licence 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.”
Ms Dorries continued: “I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and 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.”
Last week, Mr Abramovich announced that he intended to sell Chelsea after almost 20 years of ownership. He said that he would donate all net proceeds from the sale to a charitable foundation “for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.”
The latest sanctions now mean that the club can’t be sold. However a new application for a licence to sell the club would be considered by government provided none of the proceeds benefit Mr Abramovich, government sources have said.
In the details of the sanctions placed on Mr Abramovich, the government described him as “a prominent Russian businessman and pro-Kremlin oligarch.”
They added: “Abramovich is associated 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, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades.”
Mr Abramovich has previously denied that he has close personal or financial ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The government said that “this association has included obtaining financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia.
“This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favourable rates, and the contracts received in the run up to the Fifa 2018 World Cup.”
They concluded: “Therefore, Abramovich has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the Government of Russia.”
Other individuals targeted in Thursday’s sanctions include Oleg Deripaska and Igor Sechin.
Mr Deripaska has stakes in En+ group, a major extractives and energy company, and has a multi-million pound property portfolio in the UK.
Mr Sechin is the Chief Executive of Rosneft, a Russian state oil company and was described by the Foreign Office as a “particularly close and influential ally of Putin”. He was already on the US and EU sanctions list and last week French authorities seized his yacht.
The four others sanctioned are Andrey Kostin, chairman of VTB bank, Alexei Miller, CEO of energy company Gazprom, Nikolai Tokarev, president of Transneft, and Dmitri Lebedev, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya.
All four have already been sanctioned by the United States.
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.”
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said “oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society”. She added: “The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame.”
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