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EU to sanction Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich in new oligarch package

The EU will sanction Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich as part of a new package of penalties targeting Russia’s business and media elite, as well as several defense companies.

EU diplomats finalized the text of the sanctions on Monday, which will be the fourth round of EU sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich is well known across Europe as the long-time owner of Chelsea Football Club in the U.K. — a status he will be forced to relinquish amid British sanctions.

The EU is separately targeting the Russian billionaire over his “privileged access” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich retains “very good relations,” according to a draft of the sanctions document seen by POLITICO. Those friendly ties, the document says, helped Abramovich line his own pockets while making him “one of the leading Russian businesspersons” in industries that offered “a substantial source of revenue” to the Russian government, helping Moscow fund its military endeavors.

Not on the EU list, however, is leading Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska, a notable omission after the U.K. government sanctioned him last week.

Still, the EU’s latest sanctions package targets a wide range of prominent Russian figures.

It hits German Khan, a major shareholder of Alfa Group, one of Russia’s largest private investment firms, who is “believed to be one of the most influential persons in Russia,” according to the EU document. Alexey Kuzmichev, another Alfa Group shareholder, is also on the list. They join other Alfa Group shareholders like Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, who were targeted in a previous round of EU sanctions.

Also on the latest list are Viktor Rashnikov, owner of MMK, one of the world’s largest steel producers. The document describes him as “one of Russia’s largest taxpayers.” Additionally, the list includes Vladimir Rashevsky, CEO of EuroChem Group, one of the world’s largest mineral fertilizer producers.

In explaining its rationale, the EU’s sanctions document stresses the ties each person to Putin’s regime or Putin himself.

For instance, the document notes that Andrey Ryumin, head of the state-controlled energy grid operator Rosseti PJSC, attended a meeting of oligarchs with Putin on February 22, just two days before Moscow launched its war in Ukraine. His attendance at the meeting, called to discuss the effect of Western sanctions on Russia, “shows that he is a member of the inner circle of oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin,” according to the document.

Then there’s Suleyman Kerimov, who owns the financial and industrial group Nafta Moscow. Kerimov’s $9.8 billion fortune, the EU document says, was built in part through “large sums of money from Sergei Roldugin, who is the caretaker of Vladimir Putin’s wealth.”

Several media figures are also on the latest EU sanctions list. There’s Armen Gasparyan, who has a show on the Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, as well as Artyom Sheynin, who hosts “Vremya Pokazhet” (“Time will tell”) on state-controlled TV Channel One. The EU also targeted Channel One’s CEO, Konstantin Ernst.

The nine companies are mainly active in the defense and military sectors. One company of note is shipbuilder Zelenodolsk Shipyar. The company built the “Vasily Bykov” Black Sea Fleet patrol ship that attacked Snake Island on the first day of the Russian invasion — an episode that became famous amid reports that the besieged Ukrainian soldiers had replied “go fuck yourself” when asked to surrender.

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