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File photo of Roman Abramovich. Alamy Stock Photo

EU to target Roman Abramovich in fourth package of sanctions against Russia

Those included on the list could see their assets in the EU seized and entry into the bloc refused.

THE EU IS to sanction Roman Abramovich and other oligarchs as part of a fourth package of penalties against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. 

The EU presidency, currently held by France, tweeted that the ambassadors of the bloc’s 27 member nations approved a fourth package of sanctions, hitting individuals and companies “implicated in the assault on Ukraine”.

Their names were to be made public in a “quick” publication of the EU’s Official Journal legally announcing all the European Union’s decisions, it said, adding that the sanctions were worked out in concert with Western partners.

Three diplomats told AFP that Abramovich, the billionaire owner of the Chelsea football club, was added to the list of wealthy Russians whose assets in the EU – including superyachts and mansions – can be seized and entry into the bloc refused.

The EU’s move against Abramovich follows those of Britain and Canada, which last week put him on their own sanctions lists. London’s decision suspended Abramovich’s hasty attempt to sell Chelsea, which was announced on 2 March.

According to one of the EU diplomats, the stated reason for sanctioning Abramovich was because he “is a Russian oligarch who has long and close ties to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” to whom he has “privileged access”.

He is seen as providing “a substantial source of revenue” to Russia’s government.

‘Barbaric war’

On the weekend, Abramovich’s 140-metre-long superyacht Solaris was spotted arriving at a port in Montenegro, which is not part of the EU but has ambitions to join it. The vessel left the Spanish port of Barcelona days earlier.

Abramovich, 55, has a fortune worth $12.4 billion (€11.3 billion), according to Forbes magazine, and is rumoured to own half a dozen yachts. He has also acquired Portuguese and Israeli nationalities.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen last Friday, after an EU summit in France, heralded the latest round of sanctions agreed with partner nations, saying it will “further isolate Russia and drain the resources it uses to finance this barbaric war”.

Her trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, said today: “There’s no one untouchable as you’ll see.”

“This list of oligarchs is continuously being expanded – not only oligarchs, (but) also high level … state and military officials of Russia,” Dombrovskis said.

He added that Russians deemed to be “actively involved in Russia’s propaganda machine” were also on the list.

The French presidency of the EU also tweeted that the ambassadors approved a statement to the WTO stripping Russia of “most-favoured nation” status, opening the way to impose punitive tariffs on Russian exports.

Russia’s gross domestic product is forecast to shrink dramatically under the successive rounds of sanctions imposed by the EU and US and their allies, which target the Russian central bank and companies including airlines.

‘Something we’re looking at’

In the UK, the government said it is considering housing Ukrainian refugees in property owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs as it unveiled a scheme for Britons wanting to open their homes to those fleeing the war.

Asked about the possibility, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters it was “something we’re looking at”.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid earlier cautioned that the mansions should not be the “first place” considered to house refugees, warning of “legal hurdles” to clear first.

Protesters today took matters into their own hands, breaking into and occupying a luxury property beneficially owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

“We are a property liberation front,” one of the activists told AFP. “I think a war refugee deserves it, it would at least raise his mood a little bit.”

Deripaska was last week hit with an assets freeze and travel ban alongside six other Russian billionaires, including his former business associate Abramovich.

The UK has faced criticism over its policy towards those fleeing the violence in Ukraine, with places limited at the moment to those who already have family in the country.

But the government today launched the “Homes for Ukraine” programme, which could see “tens of thousands” of Ukrainians without family ties be allowed to stay in the UK.

The scheme will enable individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to volunteer accommodation for refugees for a minimum of six months.

It is open to Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members and will allow them to live and work in the UK for up to three years and access healthcare, benefits and education.

– © AFP 2022

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