Chelsea's Abramovich flies into Moscow as more oligarch assets are seized in Spain

Roman Abramovich is pictured at an airport VIP lounge in Israel on March 14, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL/MADRID/BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich jetted into Moscow on Tuesday (March 15) as the Spanish government seized more assets belonging to Russia's rich and the EU prepared to ban exports of luxury goods.

Abramovich landed in Moscow early on Tuesday after taking off from Istanbul in his private jet, according to Flightradar24 data.

A source familiar with the matter said he was not in Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

It was the second trip a jet linked to the oligarch has made between the Turkish city of Istanbul and the Russian capital in the past three days, the Flightradar24 data showed. On Monday, he was spotted in the VIP lounge at Tel Aviv airport before the jet took off for Istanbul.

Abramovich is among several Russian billionaires expected to be added to an EU blacklist on Tuesday and has already become a target of British sanctions as world governments seek to isolate Putin and his allies over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Germany's Bild newspaper reported that Abramovich had met with former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Moscow on Thursday evening before Schroeder sat down with Putin.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed the meeting with Schroeder to Reuters and said that the oligarch wanted to find a way to stop the war.

A spokesman for Abramovich declined to comment.

The Russian billionaire, who also holds Israeli and Portuguese citizenship, has said he does not have close ties to Putin. Portugal has opened an investigation into how Abramovich was granted citizenship.

Abramovich said last week he was selling Chelsea soccer club, but after being targeted by British sanctions that sale is now on hold. Chelsea is operating under a special government license and the Premier League board has disqualified him as a club director.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed Abramovich's US$600 million (S$800 million) yacht Solaris sailing near the coast of Albania on Tuesday morning with the status "awaiting orders." Its destination had previously been shown as Turkey.

It was unclear how fresh EU sanctions on him would impact the yacht's progress through European waters.

Authorities in Europe have stepped up seizing yachts and luxury assets of billionaires in Putin's circle who are on sanctions lists.

The Lady Anastasia is seen moored at a dock on Spain's Mallorca island, on March 15, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

The 48m-long yacht Lady Anastasia, owned by Russian oligarch Alexander Mikheyev, was detained by Spanish authorities on Tuesday at a Mallorca marina, a police source said.

Mikheyev, who heads Russian weapon exporting group Rosoboronoexport, is on the EU sanctions list.

On Monday, Spanish authorities said they had seized the 85m superyacht Valerie, valued at US$140 million, in Barcelona. That yacht belongs to Sergei Chemezov, a former KGB officer who heads state conglomerate Rostec, two sources said.

Chemezov was sanctioned by the United States in 2014 and Britain in 2020 over Russia's annexation of Crimea and was named in sanctions lists this month by the United States and Australia.

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Britain imposed fresh sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities on Tuesday, using a new law to catch up with the EU and United States in targeting people accused of propping up Putin.

Britain said the latest round of sanctions included elites with a net worth of 100 billion pounds (S$180 billion).

"We are going further and faster than ever in hitting those closest to Putin - from major oligarchs, to his prime minister, and the propagandists who peddle his lies and disinformation. We are holding them to account for their complicity in Russia's crimes in Ukraine," foreign minister Liz Truss said.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation."

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