From London to Ukraine with an eye on Moscow: is there a political future for Abramovich?

With a statement full of political significance, Roman Abramovich announced his farewell to Chelsea, the English team of which he has been patron since 2003. Abramovich spoke of the proceeds of the sale that will be destined for the victims of the war in Ukraine and hinted that had it been for him he would never have left the London club.

Since the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, the tycoon with interests in sports, civil aviation, import-export and many other activities, has kept a cautious attitude, typical of his character. When the West expressed a willingness to block the accounts of the oligarchs linked to the Kremlin, Abramovich was quick to secure Chelsea Football Club , leaving the presidency to the company's charity . Then the presence at the negotiations of Gomel in Belarus (strictly without camera footage), which followed the show on Sunday at Wembley by the Chelsea fans who, for the League Cup final, were distributed Ukrainian flags with the club logo.

The news that caused the greatest stir was launched by the Jerusalem Post and is related to its presence at the peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus. Both for the reluctance of the character to expose himself. Both due to the fact that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, seems to have asked for Abramovich's presence. Abramovich in the UK is referred to as the oligarch's oligarch , the oligarch of the oligarchs. Since he bought Chelsea in 2003, Tsar Roman has become a full-fledged public figure in the West, although his public appearances and interviews have been siphoned to put it mildly. On February 15 alone, John Mann, his American PR, had to post a lengthy Twitter thread to deny the veracity of a Sun article about Abramovich losing £ 650 million in one day to tensions between Russia. and Ukraine before these escalated into war. From Abramovich no official statement, no comment. A behavior to which the UK press has long been accustomed.

What does Abramovich want to do now? The relationship between him and Putin is complex, far from easy to assess. Like many oligarchs, the Chelsea boss preferred to move to London and keep his wealth away from the Kremlin. A modus vivendi that seems to be to leave Vladimir Putin the handling of institutional affairs and to the tycoons the possibility of carrying out their activities far from the events of Russian politics. There is closeness, but there is also suspicion. This is why Abramovich has so far always kept a low profile and has never directly engaged in high-level politics in Moscow. He was governor and president of the Parliament of Chukotka from 2008 to 2013, but his adventure in the institutions stopped there. Now with his presence in the negotiations, a covertly critical attitude towards the war in Ukraine and his hands free, Abramovich seems to be more of a thorn in Putin's side. And, more importantly, England has not yet directly sanctioned him. A decision at the center of controversy between the UK opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and the Tory government.

Yes, because in London – where he hasn't been seen for some time and can only enter with an Israeli passport – the former owner of Sibneft has built his fortune and his empire between Belgravia and Chelsea Embankment, between Chester Square where his family, and its Lowndes Square offices, purchased for £ 9.3m and £ 10m respectively. Once he emerged in the limelight, security became paramount to him. Thus, fearing kidnappings and revenge against his family (he has been married 3 times and has 7 children) his UK company, Millhouse Capital , hired Kroll Security International as early as 2003 to provide bodyguard and protection to him and his children. loved ones. Mediator of the agreement was Mark Skipp, former SAS, a special body of the British army. Later, after Skipp was hired at £ 200,000 a year as head bodyguard at Chester Square and at the Abramovichs' country house on Fyning Hill in West Sussex, another SAS was contacted by the latter, Bob Taylor, friend of Skipp and former fellow soldier of the war in Iraq. While his wife Daria Zubhova has made a name for herself as a London patron of the arts , attending galleries, auctions and all the cultural activities of the British capital's jet-set . Thus the Abramovichs introduced themselves to London, also creating a large market for those UK companies – legal affairs, PR, charities , private security, real estate – which welcomed the oligarchs and the Petrorubs with open arms.

Is there a political future for Abramovich? Certainly, the oligarchs are not liking the sanctions and have expressed many doubts about Putin's war in Ukraine. Fridman, Deripaska and Chernukhin are among the most active in wanting to restore pre-war normality. There are billions of pounds to be lost from Western sanctions on Russia. It is too early to say whether Abramovich's moves are linked to his more active political future. But to understand what will happen to the Kremlin, we will have to keep an eye also and above all on him.

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Fri, 04 Mar 2022 03:49:00 +0000.