Putin personally gave the green light to oligarch Roman Abramovich’s participation in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, according to two sources cited by the Financial Times.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich was recently sanctioned by the UK, EU, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland for allegedly being a close ally of Putin, which he denies. Abramovich, who owns Chelsea Football Club and stakes in metal giants Evraz and Norilsk Nickel, served as the Governor of the eastern Russian province of Chukotka for eight years during Putin’s presidency.
On March 23, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had personally asked the US Treasury Department not to impose sanctions on Abramovich, arguing that they could interfere with peace talks which he was facilitating.
The Financial Times reported on March 25 that President Putin personally gave his blessing to Abramovich’s plan to participate as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine in the war.
Members of the peace talks from the Ukrainian side have confirmed that Abramovich was present at the first round of negotiations in Gomel, Belarus.
The Financial Times reports that Abramovich is now focusing on humanitarian efforts and trying to find a way to meet Ukrainian negotiators in person again after the dangerous day-long trip between Poland and Belarus became untenable.
Abramovich met former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Moscow earlier in March alongside Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s head negotiator. Abramovich’s private jet has also been identified recently in Israel and Turkey – both are countries which want to be involved in the peace process.
Russian demands in previous talks have included Ukrainian neutrality, a reduction of Ukraine’s standing army, and guarantees of Ukraine not joining Nato or the EU.
The US has not yet imposed sanctions on Roman Abramovich.