Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich

Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He is one of seven oligarchs to be hit with fresh sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans.

The list also includes billionaires Igor Sechin and Oleg Deripaska, both seen as allies of Vladimir Putin.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “there can be no safe havens” for those who have supported the invasion.

“Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies,” Mr Johnson said.

The government had come under pressure to sanction Mr Abramovich, who said he had made the “difficult decision” to sell Chelsea FC earlier this month.

Chelsea FC has been seized from Mr Abramovich as part of the freeze on his assets and the sale of the club is now on hold.

The government says it will be issued a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches.

Season ticket holders can still attend games they have tickets for but club can not now sell any more tickets that haven’t been sold already. The merchandise shop will be closed.

Abramovich, 55, is alleged to have strong ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he has denied.

The government says Mr Abramovich, who has an estimated net worth of £9.4bn, is “one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under Putin”.

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Mr Abramovich has stakes in steel giant Evraz, Norilsk Nickel and sold a 73% stake in Russian oil firm Sibneft to state-owned gas titan Gazprom for £9.87bn in 2005.

While the sanctions against him throw Chelsea FC’s future in doubt, ministers sought to reassure the club it would be not “unnecessarily harmed”.

In a tweet, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said holding those who have “enabled the Putin regime to account” was the priority.

“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions-hit those intended,” she wrote.

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