Putin ally, Russian oligarch Abramovich rushing to offload UK assets amid sanctions threat, MP claims
Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich is rushing to offload his UK properties amid fears that his assets could be targeted by UK government sanctions, according to British Labour MP Chris Bryant.
Bryant, who also chairs the parliamentary standards committee and the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, bemoaned the slow speed of the UK government when it came it imposing sanctions on those who have links with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abramovich is a key ally of Putin, and, like other oligarchs, said to provide essential financial assistance to his regime.
"I think he [Abramovich] is terrified of being sanctioned, which is why he's already going to sell his home tomorrow, and sell another flat as well. My anxiety is that we're taking too long about these things," Bryant told the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Since Putin launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine, the UK and a host of other western nations have imposed crippling financial sanctions on Russia and supporters of President Putin.
"We're going after the highest echelons of the Russian elite, targeting President Putin personally and all of those complicit in his aggression," UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The UK Foreign Office had earlier announced that it would target "120 businesses and oligarchs" with sanctions, but so far, only a small number have had action taken against them.
Bryant's accusations of a rushed sell-off, made in the Commons using parliamentary privilege, came as Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss revealed that Abramovich had approached him with an offer to buy Chelsea Football Club.
"Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England, he also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly," Wyss revealed to the Swiss newspaper Blick.
"I and three other people received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich. I have to wait four to five days now. Abramovich is currently asking far too much. You know, Chelsea owe him £2bn. But Chelsea has no money. As of today, we don’t know the exact selling price," he added.
Days earlier, in an attempt to temper the angry backlash resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich had announced that he would hand the "stewardship and care" of the Premiership football club over to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
The Russian billionaire would no longer be involved in the day-to-day running of the club, but would remain its owner.
Speaking in the Commons, Bryant also took aim at UK lawyers who work on behalf of Russian oligarchs.
"I fear that the government is frightened of lawyers’ letters from all these oligarchs’ friends," he said.
Abramovich has been a long-time confidant of Putin, and reportedly help him form his first cabinet when he came to power in 1999. He was later elected to the State Duma and was then appointed Governor of Chukotka.
The Russian tycoon, who also holds Israeli citizenship, has insisted that he is not a political individual, and has no links to Putin or the Russian state.
A spokesman for Abramovich has claimed that the 55-year-old was asked to help broker peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, but it remains unclear which side he is representing.