This day will probably remain one of the most revolutionary days in the life of Roman Abramovich. On March 10, the British state confiscated the assets of the Russian oligarch in Great Britain. This practically makes him an undesirable person. What hits him the most: he has to leave the Chelsea football club after almost 20 years.
Abramovich himself is in Istanbul that Thursday. There he meets one of the Ukrainian participants in the peace negotiations with Russia. And he is delivering a message from Vladimir Putin.
The oligarch had met the Russian president in Moscow the day before to hand him a handwritten note from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, writes the British Times. These notes are said to have contained Ukraine’s original terms for ending the war. Putin’s message, which Abramovich was supposed to take with him to Istanbul, was: “Tell him I will destroy them.”
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The man to whom Abramovich is delivering Putin’s message and with whom he is discussing the impasse is Rustem Umerov. He is a member of the Ukrainian parliament and one of the few people Zelenskyy has entrusted with the mission of making peace with Russia. It is not known exactly what Abramovich and Umerow discussed in Istanbul. One thing is clear: since Putin’s devastating response, the negotiating parties have moved a little closer.
It’s no coincidence that Abramovich knew Umerov of all people: he is one of the Crimean Tatars, a Turkic-speaking ethnic group originally living on the Russian-annexed peninsula. Umerov, a former businessman, speaks Turkish and Russian.
As reported by various media, Abramovich is said to have participated in the negotiations in kyiv a few days earlier, that is, on March 3-4, together with representatives of the Ukrainian side.
Abramovich and the two Ukrainians are said to have been poisoned by the Russians with “chemical weapons”. This is reported by the “Wall Street Journal”, the investigative portal “Bellingcat” and a journalist from the “Guardian”. They had reported red, watery eyes, and the skin on their faces and hands had dull. This is how the “Wall Street Journal” puts it, citing negotiating circles.
Rustem Umerow said Monday, without referring directly to the reports, only: “I’m fine. This is my response to all the yellow news going around. Please don’t trust unconfirmed information. We also have an information war.”
What are Abramovich’s motives for participating in the negotiations, which are obviously not entirely harmless, as a Putin henchman or Ukraine’s lawyer? Or even both? After all, his travels are not without problems, and not just because of the suspected poisoning: Because Abramovich’s private jet is unable to operate in European airspace due to sanctions against him, he flies a plane registered in Turkey.
Political pundits initially suspect that Abramovich is taking the unofficial negotiating position out of self-interest. After all, he is no longer loved in the European Union and Great Britain. He is said to have a close connection to Putin, from whom the Russian oligarchs, and thus him too, are said to have benefited financially in recent years and decades.
Abramovich’s wealth is said to be due, among other things, to privatized state companies, which he bought cheaply and resold at a significant profit. For example, the oil company Sibneft.
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For Abramovich, the sanctions mean above all that he has to say goodbye to the English football club Chelsea, which he has owned since 2003. The club is currently one of the best in the world, and we are now more or less nationalized. He had offered to donate the proceeds from a possible sale to war victims. But nothing will come of it. Due to the sanctions, Abramovich will no longer be able to get money from the club.
Without money from abroad, Abramovich and many other oligarchs are in danger of becoming more dependent on Putin again. To free themselves from this dependency, some of them settled in Turkey, where they can buy citizenship for $250,000. Abramovich has not yet done so, but he parks his two yachts in the Turkish port of Bodrum. So, does he want to avoid possible penalties with his charge?
After all, Russia and Turkey have an ambivalent relationship. On the one hand, Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin are in very close contact. A gas pipeline that became operational in 2020 increased the dependency on Turkey. On the other hand, Turkey sided with Ukraine in the war, sending combat drones, among other things. However, Turkey is seen as likely to refrain from applying sanctions precisely because of its dependency, good news for oligarchs like Abramovich.
However, it is also good news for Putin, with whom the oligarch has indisputable connections. When he became president in 1999, Abramovich was already a big name in Russia. He supposedly owes his rise to Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Later, Abramovich is said to have supported Putin financially in his early years, including founding his “United Russia” party.
There was never a break between Abramovich and Putin
The following year, when Putin banned Russian oligarchs from meddling in politics and instead submitted to Putin’s system, Abramovich submitted. He also bought Chelsea FC to build a business outside of this system and be more independent from Putin. Apparently, there was never a break between the two.
In addition to Chelsea FC, Abramovich also invested heavily in the Evraz multinational steel group, which is listed on the British stock exchange. This produces, among other things, in the USA, in Canada and in Russia. Also for these investments he was sanctioned in Great Britain. Because: Evraz is accused of having supplied steel for the rearmament of the Russian army, also to build tanks. That would mean that the company supports the Russian war of aggression. The company denies it.
There is no evidence that Abramovich actively supported Putin after 1999. It seems that the oligarch simply kept his feet to himself and continued to make a profit. The explanation for the British sanctions also claims, among other things, that Putin made it possible for Abramovich to buy and sell shares at better prices. It is said that he got rich from the contracts for the 2018 World Cup.
Abramovich’s mother was born in the Ukraine.
On the other hand, his family background speaks to the fact that Abramovich is serious about his diplomatic endeavors: his mother was born in Ukraine. In addition, his daughter spoke publicly against the war. Abramovich did not do this directly, although he is said to have offered to financially support the Ukrainian army, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said in a recent interview with journalists from various media outlets.
Abramovich and other Russian oligarchs also want to help rebuild the partially destroyed Ukraine and are considering moving their businesses to the country. Zelenskyy, on the other hand, wants to guarantee security and work for every Russian businessman who dares to do so.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Selenskyj has already asked US President Joe Biden not to sanction Abramovich for the time being. The background: it is said that there is a list of sanctions prepared against the Russian oligarchs.
Apparently, Abramovich does not support the war, so his willingness to donate and his alleged support for Ukraine should be understood. On the other hand, his connection with Putin seems to be intact due to the meeting in Moscow. He maybe he is using this cable to help Ukraine, or maybe he is just letting Putin lure him.