The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked President Biden in a phone call earlier this month to hold off on sanctioning Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Sources told the Journal that Zelensky advised Biden to wait on the sanctions because Abramovich is trying to act as a mediator in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The report said that the Treasury Department had sanctions for Abramovich drawn up but was told by the White House’s National Security Council to hold off.
The UK and EU have already sanctioned Abramovich despite his pledges to help Ukrainians. Abramovich owns the Chelsea Football Club and vowed to sell it and donate the profits to Ukrainian victims of the war, but that wasn’t enough for London.
It’s not clear exactly what role Abramovich has been playing as a go-between in the conflict, and a spokesperson for the Russian billionaire wouldn’t elaborate in comments to the Journal. “For the negotiations, and in the interest of them succeeding, it is not helpful commenting on the process nor on Mr. Abramovich’s involvement,” the spokesperson said.
“As previously stated, based on requests, including from Jewish organizations in Ukraine, he has been doing all he can to support efforts aimed at restoring peace as soon as possible,” the spokesperson added.
According to flight tracking data, Abramovich’s jets have flown between Israel, Turkey, and Russia in recent weeks. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has acted as a mediator between Putin and Zelensky, and Turkey recently hosted the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers for talks. Abramovich holds Russian, Portuguese, and Israeli citizenship.
Republished from AntiWar.com with permission