big twist Roman Abramovich may hold the key to peace negotiations, says Ukraine leader
Ukraine’s president has appealed to Joe Biden not to sanction Roman Abramovich in the hope that the billionaire could act as an intermediary in peace talks with Russia, it was reported last night.
The US treasury was set to announce the freezing of Mr Abramovich’s assets, in tandem with the UK and EU earlier this month, when the White House’s national security council abruptly shifted course.
Volodymyr Zelensky is reported by The Wall Street Journal to have asked Mr Biden to hold off, believing the Russian oligarch might prove important as a go-between.
Earlier this month, the Chelsea FC owner had all his assets frozen in the UK, while the US has already targeted wealthy oligarchs to put pressure on Vladimir Putin.
According to public flight data, Mr Abramovich’s private jets have travelled between Russia, Turkey and Israel in recent weeks.
Mr Abramovich (55), who also holds Israeli and Portuguese citizenship, feels his standing in the Russian business community can help negotiations between the two warring nations, a person close to him told the American newspaper.
“For the negotiations, and in the interest of them succeeding, it is not helpful commenting on the process nor on Mr Abramovich’s involvement,” a spokesman for him said yesterday.
“As previously stated, based on requests, including from Jewish organisations in Ukraine, he has been doing all he can to support efforts aimed at restoring peace as soon as possible.”
However, US officials told The Wall Street Journal this week they have “no reason” to believe he has been helpful in the talks between Ukraine and Russia, and intelligence assessments “have, in fact, suggested otherwise”.
Also yesterday, Mr Zelensky said car maker Renault must “stop sponsoring murder” as he addressed French MPs. He also criticised the French DIY chain Leroy Merlin, which operates more than 100 stores in Russia.
“Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and others must stop being the sponsors of Russia’s war machine,” he said.
Renault announced last night that it would immediately suspend operations at its Moscow factory. The company is also considering “the possible options” for its Russian affiliate AvtoVAZ, the company said.
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