February 28, 2022
By Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) – Russian billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich, who owns Premier League soccer club Chelsea, has accepted a Ukrainian request to help negotiate an end to the conflict in Ukraine, his spokeswoman said.
Word of Abramovich’s involvement in talks on the conflict, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, first came from the Jewish News, which said Kyiv had reached out through Jewish contacts to seek his help.
“I can confirm Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since,” a spokeswoman said.
“Considering what is at stake, we would ask for understanding as to why we have not commented on either the situation as such or his involvement.”
There was no immediate comment from Ukraine’s government.
Abramovich, who is Jewish and has Israeli citizenship, was one of the most powerful businessmen who earned fabulous fortunes after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. Forbes ranks his net worth at $13.3 billion.
A commodity trader who thrived in the chaos of the 1990s under then-President Boris Yeltsin, Abramovich acquired stakes in the Sibneft oil company, Rusal aluminium producer and Aeroflot airline that were later sold.
Under Russian President Vladimir Putin, Abramovich served as governor of the remote Arctic region of Chukotka in Russia’s Far East.
It was not immediately clear what role, if any, Abramovich would have in talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials that began on Monday at the Belarusian border.
Earlier the Ukrainian president’s office said Ukraine’s goal for the talks was an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine. The Kremlin has not said explicitly what its objective is in the talks.
Abramovich, 55, said on Saturday he was giving trustees of Chelsea stewardship of the club.
In recent days, two other Russian billionaires, Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska, have called for an end to the conflict.
Putin used an early morning address to the nation on Feb. 24 to order “a special military operation” against Ukraine just three days after recognising two Russian-backed rebel regions of Ukraine.
Putin said he was ordering the military operation to protect people, including Russian citizens, from “genocide” – an accusation Ukraine and the West reject as baseless propaganda.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by William James, Alistair Smout and Mark Heinrich)