Abramovich lost half of his fortune due to the war

During the latest negotiations in Turkey to try to end the war in Ukraine, a familiar face appeared alongside diplomats and representatives of the belligerents in Istanbul: that of the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the billionaire president of the football club from Chelsea.

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What was the sulphurous oligarch doing at the Istanbul discussions? “Mr. Abramovich was taking part in the negotiations as a member of the Russian delegation,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, saying his presence proved that he had the “confidence” of Moscow.

The head of Turkish diplomacy Mevlut Cavusoglu for his part considered that Abramovich had been involved in “honest” peace efforts since the first days of the war triggered on February 24 by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and underlined his “positive” contribution to diplomatic efforts.

For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov indicated that the billionaire, without being an official member of the Russian delegation, was responsible for “establishing contacts” between the belligerents, with their agreement.

Adding to the mystery, the Wall Street Journal claimed last week that Abramovich traveled to Kyiv in early March to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It was on this occasion that he would have shown symptoms of poisoning, like two other Ukrainian negotiators, according to the newspaper.


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The invasion of Ukraine was a personal disaster for the billionaire, analysts remind: the European Union adopted a whole series of sanctions against several oligarchs, including him. Already sanctioned by the United Kingdom, where his assets have been frozen, Mr. Abramovich wanted to sell Chelsea, a Premier League club harmed by the sanctions affecting him personally, but this sale has been suspended.

Abramovich, a billionaire with a troubled past – the BBC revealed documents in mid-March accusing him of corruption in particular – and whose fortune has been assessed by the British government at 10.7 billion euros, therefore has an interest all personal to see the end of the war in Ukraine.

His role as mediator in the conflict could also enable him to redeem his image with the Western chancelleries who have put him on the index.

“This is a good opportunity for Abramovich to find himself on the right side of history,” said Alexander Baunov, a researcher at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, for whom the billionaire could also be interested in the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Apart from Chelsea, he holds stakes in the steel giant Evraz, as well as in the Russian company Norilsk Nickel, which specializes in the exploitation and processing of nickel and palladium.

This Russian oligarch “has close and long-standing ties with Vladimir Putin”, according to an EU preparatory document on the new sanctions. Links that allowed him to consolidate his wealth, according to this document.

Mr. Abramovich is “Putin’s most loyal and devoted oligarch”, asserts Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations at the foundation of imprisoned opponent Alexei Navalny.

Her participation in the Russian-Ukrainian talks is, according to her, “a communication coup”.

“The most important thing is that Putin trusts him. But Zelensky can also trust him,” said Russian political scientist Konstantin Kalachev.

Between 2001 and 2008, Roman Abramovich was governor of the sparsely populated region of Chukotka in Russia’s far northeast, and poured his money into projects for this underdeveloped region.

He was also co-director, before selling his shares in 2019, of the first Russian public channel, known for its pro-Kremlin reporting.

According to Forbes magazine, the war in Ukraine cost the oligarch some $7 billion, and his fortune now stands at $8.3 billion.

At the end of March, the billionaire docked one of his yachts in southwestern Turkey, a country that does not apply sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

Reputed to be shy and secretive – he never gives interviews – Abramovich announced in a press release on March 2 that he was selling the Chelsea club and that the proceeds of this sale would go to a foundation “for the benefit of all victims. of the war in Ukraine and support for long-term reconstruction”.

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