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ukraine crisis Roman Abramovich makes dramatic move as he hands over control of Chelsea

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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (Jed Leicester/PA)

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (Jed Leicester/PA)

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (Jed Leicester/PA)

Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich has taken the dramatic step of handing over the club's ownership in response to the war in Ukraine.

There have been calls in the UK for the British government to freeze the London assets of billionaire oligarch Abramovich following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Now Abramovich has taken a dramatic move to try and limited the damage to Chelsea, with a shock club statement released on Saturday evening.

"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 brief statement from Abramovich.

"I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. 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."

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Roman Abramovich, Owner of Chelsea and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea pose with the FIFA Club World Cup trophy following victory in the 2021 Final at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Roman Abramovich, Owner of Chelsea and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea pose with the FIFA Club World Cup trophy following victory in the 2021 Final at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Roman Abramovich, Owner of Chelsea and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea pose with the FIFA Club World Cup trophy following victory in the 2021 Final at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

This appears to be a holding move by Abramovich, who has been very much a distant owner of Chelsea in recent years after his visa to stay in the UK was not renewed in 2018 amid a dispute with UK authorities.

Chelsea's bank statements confirm Abramovich is owned in excess of £1billion in loan by Chelsea and while there has never been any suggestion that he would look to cash in that bill, this move is a clear attempt by the Russian to shield the club from any punishment that may be coming his way from the UK government.

Abramovich is reported to have flown back to Russia in recent days following the outbreak of war in Ukraine and he will not be in attendance for Chelsea's Carabao Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday.

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has drawn up a new hit-list of Russian oligarchs to be sanctioned, The Sunday Times reports.

Truss says more of the super-rich linked to Vladimir Putin's regime will be hit with restrictions in the coming weeks.

The paper says she warned them: “We will come after you... there will be nowhere left to hide."

That imminent move by the British government may explain why Abramovich has made his move now, but it remains to be seen whether his decision to step back from Chelsea will allow him to avoid sanctions.

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