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29 Nov, 2023 12:03

Israel eyes Russian tycoon's frozen billions – Telegraph

London has pledged that the funds seized from sanctioned Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich's sale of Chelsea FC will be spent exclusively in Ukraine
Israel eyes Russian tycoon's frozen billions – Telegraph

The British government was asked to spend an estimated $3 billion in funds seized from sanctioned Russian businessman Roman Abramovich in Israel rather than Ukraine, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday. The money came from the sale of Chelsea football club, which used to belong to the tycoon. He had himself pledged the proceeds to victims of the Ukraine conflict.

With the billions still untouched, alternative spending proposals have been floated, according to sources cited by the paper. One insider claimed that Abramovich was concerned that his clout with Moscow would be eroded, should the funds go to Ukraine.

Spending the money for humanitarian causes in Israel in the wake of the October 7 raid by Palestinian militant group Hamas would solve the impasse, the source told The Telegraph. Previously, Abramovich had also suggested using funds to help victims of the February earthquakes in Türkiye, according to the report.

Other sources said Israel led discussions on a possible diversion of funds without Abramovich’s knowledge. The Russian-born Jewish entrepreneur is a “big donor” in Israel, so “Israelis asked the UK… if they would consider giving a license for any assets of his, not just Chelsea, to be donated towards reconstruction in Israel,” a person familiar with the matter was quoted by the outlet as saying.

“My understanding is that the UK Government told Israel a firm no,” the source added.

Abramovich holds citizenship in Russia, Israel, and Portugal. The latter prompted London to involve the EU in the handling of his seized funds. A joint statement by the UK and the European Commission in May said Chelsea sale proceeds would be spent “exclusively” within Ukraine.

The billionaire has acted as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev on several occasions and was seen at Türkiye-backed peace talks in March 2022, which produced a draft truce.

Then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson derailed the nascent agreement by telling the Ukrainian government to “just make war,” Ukrainian MP David Arakhamia, the leader of the ruling party’s parliamentary faction, confirmed in an interview last week.