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Roman Abramovich

After the US Treasury Department had drafted a set of sanctions against Russian-Israeli-British-Portuguese Oligarch Roman Abramovich, as part of its attack on President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the White House’s National Security Council told the Treasury to hold off, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. It appears Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky had asked President Joe Biden in a recent phone call to leave Abramovich alone since he could be useful as a go-between with Russia in peace negotiations.

US officials, however, told The Wall Street Journal that they had no reason to believe Abramovich had been “particularly helpful in the talks between the Ukrainian and Russian governments, and intelligence assessments have, in fact, suggested otherwise.”

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State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on the sanctions against Abramovich, but said at Wednesday’s press conference that “there are a number of channels through which our Ukrainian partners and their Russian counterparts can engage in dialogue and diplomacy.”

A spokesperson for Abramovich said in a statement: “For the negotiations, and in the interest of them succeeding, it is not helpful commenting on the process nor on Mr. Abramovich’s involvement. 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.”

According to Forbes, Abramovich’s net worth was $12.9 billion in 2019, making him the second-richest person in Israel, the eleventh-richest in Russia, and the very richest person in Portugal. He was one of seven oligarchs sanctioned by the UK government over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including asset freezes and travel bans.

According to the WSJ, citing a person familiar with the matter, film producer Alexander Rodnyansky, the father of an adviser to Zelensky, reached out to Abramovich, who had funded arts projects in Russia in which Rodnyansky was involved. Abramovich has told associates that he was trying to act as a go-between to end the war.

The US Department of Commerce on Friday took steps to ground 100 aircraft that recently flew to Russia and are suspected of violating export control rules. The list includes the Gulfstream G650 that belongs to Abramovich.

In mid-March, the EU imposed trade restrictions on iron, steel, and luxury products on a list of individuals that includes Roman Abramovich and 14 others.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.