Russian billionaire’s role in Moscow-Kiev talks reduced – WSJ
Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich has seen his role as mediator between Moscow and Kiev reduced to negotiating prisoner exchanges and facilitating the so-called ‘grain deal’, the Wall Street Journal claimed on Thursday.
The businessman, who previously chose to personally participate in the peace talks between the two countries, has had his participation significantly diminished since negotiations broke down in April, the outlet reported.
As noted by the WSJ, although Abramovich remains an acceptable intermediary for the Kremlin as well as Kiev and its allies, Ukrainian officials no longer expect him to play a key role as mediator.
“He can have a role if there’s a need to get involved in some issues,” said Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. “But it’s not the mediator role he had in the first rounds of the negotiation process.”
While outlets such as the Financial Times have claimed that Abramovich was personally “blessed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin to mediate the peace talks, the Kremlin has clarified that the businessman is not an official Russian negotiator but is involved in ensuring contacts between Moscow and Kiev.
The WSJ also claims that some in the West are suspicious of Abramovich’s resolve to participate in the talks, with some suspecting it may be an attempt to escape sanctions and save what’s left of his nearly $15 billion fortune. Since the start of the Ukrainian conflict, Abramovich has reportedly lost some $5.6 billion.
He was placed on the sanctions list in the EU, UK and Canada shortly after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in February last year. Last month, Ottawa became the first G7 member to announce plans to confiscate the billionaire’s assets, with the intention of using them to reconstruct Ukraine and compensate “victims of the war.”
The US, on the other hand, has so far refrained from blacklisting the oligarch. Kiev reportedly requested he be exempted due to his role as an unofficial mediator in peace talks. Ukraine has placed Abramovich on its own sanctions list, however, but has postponed enforcing them until the prisoner exchanges between the two countries are complete.
Abramovich made his fortune mostly through the oil and commodity trade in the 1990s and served as the governor of the remote Chukotka Region in the extreme northern part of Russia’s Far East in the 2000s. He bought English football club Chelsea in 2003 but sold it in May of last year.