Roman Abramovich’s hopes of selling Chelsea have been put on hold after the Russian oligarch was sanctioned by the UK government.

Abramovich’s UK assets have been frozen as part of the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a document published by the government on Thursday morning, Chelsea’s owner was identified as “a pro-Kremlin oligarch” and was said to be “associated with a person who is or has been involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades.”

The document stated that Abramovich has had a close relationship with Putin “for decades” and that the association has led to him benefitting financially.

The government said: “This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia. This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favourable rates, and the contracts received in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup. Therefore, Abramovich has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the government of Russia.”

Abramovich has repeatedly denied that he is linked to Putin or the Russian state, or that he has done anything to merit being sanctioned.

The measures mean that Abramovich cannot sell Chelsea or invest in the club. The 55-year-old put the club up for sale last week and had been hoping for a deal to go through quickly. There has been interest in the club from several parties.

Chelsea, who were bought by Abramovich in 2003, now face an uncertain future. The European champions have been given a special licence to continue operating, but they will do so with restrictions hanging over them. They cannot sell tickets, no merchandise sales are allowed and they cannot sign players or hand out new contracts. Season ticket holders are allowed to attend games and catering services will be permitted.

source: the guardian

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