By Marc Burleigh
The EU is to sanction Roman Abramovich and other oligarchs in its latest round of punishment of Russians seen as supporting Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, three diplomats told AFP on Monday.
The billionaire owner of the Chelsea football club and the others are being added to a list of individuals whose assets in the EU — including superyachts and mansions — can be seized and entry into the bloc refused, the diplomats said.
They are part of a fourth round of EU sanctions against Russia, the details of which were expected to be published later Monday.
The EU’s move follows that of Britain and Canada, which last week put Abramovich on their own sanctions lists. London’s decision put Abramovich’s hastily attempted sale of Chelsea — announced March 2 — on ice.
According to one of the EU diplomats, the stated reason for sanctioning Abramovich was because he “is a Russian oligarch who has long and close ties to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” to whom he has “privileged access”.
He is seen as providing “a substantial source of revenue” to Russia’s government.
Superyacht in Montenegro
On the weekend, Abramovich’s 140-metre-long (460-foot) superyacht Solaris was spotted arriving at a port in Montenegro, which is not part of the EU, but has ambitions to join it. The vessel left the Spanish port of Barcelona days earlier.
Abramovich, 55, has a fortune worth $12.4 bln (€11.3 bln), according to Forbes magazine, and is rumoured to own half a dozen yachts. He has also acquired Portuguese and Israeli nationalities.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen last Friday, after an EU summit in France, heralded the latest round of sanctions agreed with partner nations, saying it will “further isolate Russia and drain the resources it uses to finance this barbaric war”.
Her trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, said on Monday: “There’s no one untouchable as you’ll see.”
“This list of oligarchs is continuously being expanded — not only oligarchs, (but) also high level … state and military officials of Russia,” Dombrovskis said.
He added that Russians deemed to be “actively involved in Russia’s propaganda machine” were also on the list.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a visit to North Macedonia that “this will be another major blow” to Russia’s economy.
Russia’s gross domestic product is forecast to shrink dramatically under the successive rounds of sanctions imposed by the EU and US and their allies, which target the Russian central bank and companies including airlines.
© Agence France-Presse