The Russian-Israeli billionaire announced on Saturday he was handing the “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the club’s foundation trustees, but will remain as owner.
Chelsea, who play Liverpool in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, reacted to the ongoing conflict by releasing a short 24-word statement on their website, though chose not to condemn Russia or Vladimir Putin.
It read: “The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating. Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.”
Abramovich has taken the decision to protect Chelsea from continued links to the wider situation of Russia’s war with Ukraine, the PA news agency understands.
Chelsea’s senior leadership set-up will not change, it is understood, with chairman Bruce Buck now the west London club’s most senior figure.
“During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities,” read a statement from Abramovich.
“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values.
The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating. Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace
“That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.
“I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”
Abramovich’s step backwards will not have any bearing on any possible UK Government sanctions, but was a decision understood to have been taken solely in Chelsea’s interests.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who claimed in the House of Commons on Thursday that the UK government should seize Abramovich’s assets, wants stronger action from the Russian.
“I’m worried that the British press (with some notable exceptions) have fallen for the Abramovich line on ceding control,” he tweeted.
“Unless and until he condemns the criminal invasion of Ukraine I will continue to call for the UK to sanction him and seize/freeze assets.”
Czech Republic have become the latest national side, after Sweden and Poland, to announce they will not play Russia in the current situation.
If the Czechs beat Sweden in Solna in March, they were scheduled to meet the winner of Poland and Russia later that month.
But the Czech Republic national team said on Twitter: “The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it’s not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue.
“We all want the war to end as soon as possible.”
Screens at the London Stadium were lit up in the yellow and blue of Ukraine ahead of Sunday’s Premier League game against Wolves and showed a message which read: “Sending love and prayers to Andriy Yarmolenko and the people of Ukraine.”
The Hammers warmed up in number seven Yarmolenko shirts, with the Ukraine winger having been given time off by the club.
Former Birmingham, Wigan and Blackpool winger Viv Solomon-Otabor signed for Rukh Lviv in January and described the scene of people fleeing the country.
He told Sky Sports News: “There were a lot of cars, a lot of people, a lot of lorries, a lot of people trying to get back.
“Some people got told to turn around which was not nice to see. Everyone was calm but you could see the fear in their faces. You could see it.”
Meanwhile, the International Judo Federation has suspended Russian president Putin.
The IJF said on its website: “In light of the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine, the International Judo Federation announces the suspension of Mr Vladimir Putin’s status as honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation.”