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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly asked President Biden to hold off on imposing sanctions against Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in the hope that the reputed crony of Vladimir Putin could act as a go-between in negotiating peace.
The US Treasury Department was asked by the White House to stand down on sanctioning the Russian billionaire Abramovich after Zelensky personally made his pitch to Biden during a recent phone conversation, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Officials at the Treasury Department prepared a package of sanctions against Abramovich that were timed to coincide with a parallel announcement from the European Union, the Journal reported.
But Biden apparently acceded to Zelensky’s request for caution.
When asked whether Abramovich was acting as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday: “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 told the Journal: “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.”
Western governments have targeted Abramovich and several other Russian oligarchs with sanctions as they seek to isolate President Vladimir Putin and his allies over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The British government froze Abramovich’s considerable assets in the country, including his prized soccer team Chelsea FC. The London club is now for sale, with several American billionaires reported to be in the running.
The West’s shunning of Abramovich has the billionaire oligarch scrambling to find a safe haven for his investments.
A second superyacht linked to Abramovich docked in a Turkish resort on Tuesday, and sources familiar with the discussions said he and other wealthy Russians were looking to invest in Turkey given sanctions elsewhere.
While strongly criticizing the invasion, Turkey has said it opposes sanctions imposed by its NATO allies on principle.
That could set it up as a possible safe haven for Russians seeking to make investments and preserve assets.
Eclipse, which is one of the world’s biggest yachts at 533 feet, docked in the resort of Marmaris in southwest Turkey after skirting Greek islands, according to a Reuters witness and tracking data. It sails under a Bermuda flag.
Solaris, another superyacht linked to Abramovich, arrived a day earlier in the resort of Bodrum some 50 miles away, after having also avoided the waters of EU countries that have sanctioned the oligarchs.
With Post wires