Dhe Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was reportedly the victim of a poisoning attempt during the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks earlier this month. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Abramovich and two members of the Ukrainian delegation suffered symptoms including peeling skin on their faces and hands and red eyes. By now they would have recovered. The news goes back to research by an employee of the investigative collective Bellingcat, who among other things saw photos of those affected. It was unclear what kind of poison it was supposed to be.
Abramovich has apparently been mediating at the highest level between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine for weeks. The British newspaper The Times reported on Monday that Abramovich flew by private jet from Istanbul, where he is currently staying, to Moscow last Wednesday to deliver a handwritten note from Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Vladimir Putin and flew back the same evening to discuss Putin’s response with Ukrainian negotiators.
According to the Financial Times, Putin personally commissioned Abramovich to mediate. In addition, David Arakhamia, who leads Zelenskyy’s party in the Kyiv parliament, confirmed to the newspaper that Abramovich is “deeply involved in the peace talks”.
“Tell them I’ll beat them up”
Abramovich is among the most prominent oligarchs to gain a foothold in the UK. After his visa was not extended in 2018, the British government recently imposed sanctions on him, which also resulted in him losing control of his Premier League football club Chelsea. She already had him before I placed on the sanctions list.
The government in Washington has so far refrained from taking any action against Abramovich. The American newspaper “Wall Street Journal” reported that Zelenskyi was the American President Joe Biden is said to have asked not to implement a series of sanctions that had already been prepared against the oligarch, which may have something to do with his role as a mediator.
According to The Times, Abramovich brought proposals to Putin Selenskyis about a possible peace treaty. Allegedly, Putin initially responded with the sentence: “Tell them I’ll beat them up”. Abramovich then discussed Putin’s reactions in Istanbul with Ukrainian MP and businessman Rustem Umerov. Both had previously been to Selenskyi in Kyiv. A whole series of meetings between Abramovich and Umerov in various luxury hotels took place Ibrahim Kalinthe spokesman for the Turkish President Erdogan coordinated.
Alleged meeting with Schröder
According to the Times, despite Putin’s brusque reaction, progress has been made in the negotiations. Abramovich is said to have flown on a private plane owned by a Turkish company; he is not allowed to move his own plane because of the EU sanctions. Ankara has not imposed any sanctions on him, which is probably why he anchors two of his yachts in Bodrum Harbour.
Abramovich’s attempts at mediation seem to have begun early on. Ukrainian MP Arakhamia told the Financial Times that he met him during the first talks in Gomel, Belarus. Abramovich is also said to be the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder met in Moscow, together with the head of the Russian negotiation commission, Vladimir Medinsky.
According to Arakhima, Abramovich “came into the process through the international Jewish community.” Abramovich has donated part of his wealth to Jewish institutions and holds an Israeli passport. A government official in Jerusalem, however, denied to the “Financial Times‘ that Abramovich had something to do with official Israeli mediation efforts.
Abramovich’s motives are unclear. It was speculated that he might initially have hoped to be spared sanctions by acting as a mediator. On the other hand, Putin’s apparently personal assignment contradicts his assurances that he is no longer in contact with the Kremlin. Abramovich made his fortune, estimated at more than eleven billion euros, mainly during the time of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and held a governorship in Putin’s early years.
The Times quoted sources as saying Abramovich’s efforts were a “genuine” response to the suffering in Ukraine. His mother was born in Ukraine, and his daughter has publicly spoken out against Putin’s war of aggression.