Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich Wants You to Know He’s Hurting Too

Ukrainian people have suffered unimaginable horror over the last week—but Russian oligarchs want you to know that they, too, are victims of Vladimir Putin’s war. Specifically, billionaire Roman Abramovich would like to make it clear that his heart is breaking because, what with the threat of sanctions bearing down on him, he has been forced to make the painful decision to sell Premier League soccer club Chelsea (before his assets can be seized). Some people have lost family; Abramovich is parting ways with a trophy sports team in exchange for billions of dollars. Are these things really so different?

On Wednesday, Abramovich said in a statement: “I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.” He added: “Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner.” Abramovich noted that the “net proceeds” from the sale will go toward benefiting “all victims of the war in Ukraine,” thought it’s not entirely clear what “net proceeds” means. Abramovich bought the club for around $185 million in 2003, and it is now reportedly worth approximately $3.2 billion. The billionaire said that he will not make Chelsea repay the loans he has provided over the years, claiming, “This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and club.” Apparently in quite the hurry, he set a Friday deadline for would-be buyers to submit “indicative” bids.

While Abramovich has not yet been hit with sanctions in the U.K., it certainly seems as though he expects they are coming, and not only based on his sale of Chelsea. On Tuesday, Labour M.P. Chris Bryant told the House of Commons, “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.” Abramovich, who is worth approximately $13.5 billion, owns a 15-bedroom home in London’s “Billionaires Row,” which he bought for 90 million British pounds in 2009. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an idiot, told Parliament last week that Abramovich had already been sanctioned, a claim he was forced to correct. On Wednesday, opposition leader Keir Starmer asked “why on earth” the Chelsea owner wasn’t on the current sanctions list, to which Johnson responded: “It’s not appropriate for me to comment on individual cases at this stage,” adding that the government would soon be publishing a “full list” of people associated with Putin. On Tuesday in Poland, Ukrainian activist Daria Kaleniuk told the U.K. prime minister, “You’re talking about more sanctions, prime minister. But Roman Abramovich is not sanctioned. He is in London. His children are not in the bombardments. His children are there, in London.” A fair point!

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Meanwhile, in other news relevant to multibillionaires with ties to Putin:

The Justice Department said Wednesday it is launching a special unit to help enforce sanctions against Russian government officials and oligarchs, targeting their yachts, jets, real estate, and other assets. The new Task Force KleptoCapture is part of the effort by the U.S., the European Union, and other allies to punish Russia and Belarus for the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, using export restrictions and other financial sanctions…. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the new task force will include prosecutors and federal agents and experts in money laundering, tax enforcement, and national security investigations from the FBI, the IRS, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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