Roman Abramovich sanctioned by UK government amid crackdown on Russian oligarchs

Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government as part of attempts to crackdown on wealthy Russians with assets in the country.

The Chelsea Football Club owner is one of seven more Russian oligarchs who have had sanctions placed on them by ministers on Thursday in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A government document announcing the move said Mr Abramovich has had a “close relationship for decades” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the government of Russia,” it said.

Image: Roman Abramovich is in the process of selling Chelsea Football Club which he has owned since 2003

Abramovich in process of selling Chelsea

Last week, Mr Abramovich announced that he intends to sell Chelsea after almost 20 years of ownership, and pledged that net proceeds from the sale would be donated to “all victims of the war in Ukraine”.

The sanctions will come into force before the sale of the football club, which was previously estimated to be worth around £3bn, is able to take place.

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Read more: How Abramovich sanctions will affect Chelsea fans

Chelsea’s shirt sponsor Three, the mobile phone and telecommunications company, said they are reviewing their relationship with the club after the British government announced sanctions on the club’s owner.

“We are in discussions with Chelsea and we are reviewing our position,” a Three spokesperson said.

Another club sponsor, delivery service Zapp, said its partnership with the club is also now “under review”

Analysis, Kaveh Solhekol, Sky Sports News chief reporter

Sanctions on Abramovich have been imposed to stop him making any money but Chelsea have been given a licence for football-related activity to continue because they are a significant cultural asset.

They can carry on playing games, their games can be shown on TV and they can continue to receive broadcast revenues.

That means they can carry on paying wages and bills but they can’t sell tickets or merchandise or sign players or give players new contracts.

Supporters can still buy merchandise from third parties who have existing stock.

At home games they are allowed to spend up to £500,000 on security, catering and stewarding.

For away games they are only allowed to spend up to £20,000 on travel.

No expenditure allowed on new works or refurbishments.

Loan arrangements agreed before today can continue and outstanding transfer payments due to clubs can continue to be paid.

Mr Abramovich will have his assets frozen under the move, will also face a prohibition on transactions with UK individuals and businesses and will have a travel ban forbidding him to enter the UK.

The announcement, which comes 117 years to the day since Chelsea was founded, also states that jets and yachts owned or chartered by Mr Abramovich can been seized.

The outgoing premiership side owner’s net worth is an estimated £9.4bn and he is one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under Mr Putin.

The UK is the first nation to sanction Mr Abramovich, who the government has described as a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”.

Image: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Roman Abramovich and the other six oligarchs have ‘close links to Putin’ and are ‘complicit in his aggression’ With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression.

Seven more Russian oligarchs sanctioned

The other six Russian oligarchs who have been sanctioned by the UK government on Thursday are:

• Oleg Deripaska, who has stakes in En+ Group – a major extractives and energy company

• Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft – a Russian state oil company

• Andrey Kostin, chairman of VTB bank – the second largest bank in Russia

• Alexei Miller, chief executive of energy company Gazprom

• Nikolai Tokarev, president of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft

• Dmitri Lebedev, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya – widely considered to be The Kremlin’s private bank

The seven latest individuals to be sanctioned have a collective net worth of around £15bn.

The government has now sanctioned more than 200 individuals and entities.

Image: Roman Abramovich can no longer profit from the sale of Chelsea and faces a travel ban to the UK

‘Blood of the Ukraine people is on their hands’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Mr Abramovich and the other Russian oligarchs sanctioned are “complicit” in Putin’s aggression.

“The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame,” she said.

“Our support for Ukraine will not waver. We will not stop in this mission to ramp up the pressure on the Putin regime and choke off funds to his brutal war machine.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine.”

Image: Chelsea has been issued a licence to continue operating

Chelsea issued special licence to continue operating

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries acknowledged the decision would have an impact on Chelsea Football Club, but said a special licence which runs until 31 May would enable it to continue operating.

However, Sky News understands the licence for continued operation is very narrow:

• Chelsea fixtures will be fulfilled and can be televised

• Only people who already have tickets to upcoming matches at Stamford Bridge can attend

• Contracted staff and players will continue to be paid

• Tickets and merchandise cannot be sold.

• Mr Abramovich cannot profit from the sale of his club

• No new players can be signed

• Spend on travel for away games capped at £20,000

• Spend on security for home games capped at £50,000

Chelsea could be sold, but Mr Abramovich must not profit


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Downing Street confirmed the government is “open” to a sale of Chelsea Football Club if a licence is approved by the Treasury, but said Mr Abramovich must not be allowed to profit.

“The important thing is under no circumstances would any sale allow Roman Abramovich to profit from that or take any money from that sale,” a spokesperson for the PM said.

They added: “It’s fair to say the government is open to the sale of the club but currently it would require another licence, and that would require further conversation with the Treasury and other departments.”

UK is for once ahead of the curve in targeting Russian oligarchs Ian King

Business presenter


The sanctions on Roman Abramovich are by far the most dramatic yet imposed by the UK government on people closely connected with the Kremlin because, for the first time, the government has targeted someone not currently subject to sanctions by the United States of the European Union.

All of the other oligarchs sanctioned today by the government, including the aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, the Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin and the Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller, are already covered by either US or EU sanctions. Mr Abramovich represents a new target, then, for the west’s sanctions regime targeting allies and close contacts of Vladimir Putin.

While most attention will naturally be focused on the implications of the sanctions for Chelsea FC, which have scuppered the club’s sale and which also, in the medium term, may threaten its ability to compete on the field, there will be other consequences.

One concerns Evraz, the Russian-based but London-listed steelmaker, in which Mr Abramovich owns a 28% shareholding. Shares of Evraz, which is expected to be relegated from the FTSE-100 during next week’s reshuffle, fell by 12.5% on news of the sanctions on Mr Abramovich and then, shortly afterwards, the Financial Conduct Authority ordered a suspension of trading in the shares pending clarification of the impact of the sanctions.

Some will wonder, naturally, why the UK government has taken so long to impose sanctions on the most prominent Russian oligarch with interests in the UK.

However, in acting ahead of the US and the EU in this instance, the UK has for once, in the jargon, got ahead of the curve.

Licence to be kept ‘under constant review’

“To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that 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 said.

“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.”

Read more: Bill to bolster UK’s ability to target Russian oligarchs sails through Commons

A statement issued by the government confirming the latest sanctions said the licence published will allow Chelsea to “continue playing matches and other football related activity which will in turn protect the Premier League, the wider pyramid, loyal fans and other clubs”.

It adds that the licence will be kept “under constant review”.

Image: Sky News understands the sale of Chelsea Football Club is still possible, so long as Mr Abramovich does not profit from it

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust express ‘concern’ at announcement

A Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) spokesperson said: “The CST notes with concern the government’s statement regarding the owner. Supporters must be involved in any conversation regarding ongoing impacts on the club and its global fan base.

“The CST implores the government to conduct a swift process to minimise the uncertainty over Chelsea’s future, for supporters – and for supporters to be given a golden share as part of a sale of the club.”

Read more: Calls to seize Russian oligarchs’ UK properties

Earlier this week, MPs worked fast-pace to pass the Economic Crime Bill which will come into force next week.

The Bill will significantly simplify the process of imposing sanctions and allow the UK to more easily sanction individuals and “stop oligarchs threatening the UK with multi-million pound lawsuits for damages at the taxpayers’ expense and allow the UK to mirror allies designations”.

Sky Sports News understands that Chelsea and government officials will meet on Thursday.