Roman Abramovich is reportedly acting as a ‘peacemaker’ in the Russian war in Ukraine as he avoids Western sanctions in Turkey.
The Chelsea FC owner is said to have been jetting between Istanbul, Moscow, and Kyiv to relay messages between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. But when handed a note from the Ukrainian president outlining peace terms, the Russian despot reportedly erupted with fury, according to Daily Mail.
Abramovich has been trying to rescue his reputation after being slapped with sanctions by the UK and EU over his closeness to Putin.
His assets have been frozen across Britain and the Continent and he started a fire sale of London property as well as Chelsea football club. But his yachts and jets, which are worth hundreds of millions of pounds, remain out of bounds as they dodge sanctioned waters and airspace.
Meanwhile, Zelensky reportedly pleaded with President Joe Biden for the US to hold off bringing measures against the oligarch due to his role in negotiations.
Abramovich left Ataturk airport in Istanbul on a private Hawker 800XP jet last Wednesday, heaving across the Black Sea towards Sochi.
The oligarch had flown in to meet Putin and hand him a handwritten note by Zelensky outlining Ukraine’s peace terms position.
According to the Times, the Russian president said to the oligarch: ‘Tell him I will thrash them.’
He returned to Istanbul and linked up with Ukrainian politician Rustem Umerov, who is said to be acting as Kyiv’s negotiator.
They met at five-star hotels in the Turkish capital, having been set up by President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. And they appear to be making progress with future face-to-face talks set to continue this week.
Kalin told the newspaper Hurriyet last weekend they were ‘close to agreement’ on key issues on Nato, demilitarisation, and protected status for the Russian language. But there are still differences over the future of Crimea – which Russia annexed in 2014 – and Donbas, which has mostly been occupied during the current conflict.
Kalin floated the idea that Crimea and Donbas be held by Moscow under a long-term lease like Britain had over Hong Kong from 1898 to 1997.
Putin is believed to be considering the idea but his fury at his military’s failures and hatred of Zelensky are said to be holding him back.
Abramovich and Umerov have visited the Ukrainian President in war-torn Kyiv after travelling on private jets routed through Warsaw, Poland.
The businessman has been flying on one owned by a Turkish firm due to his being under EU sanctions.
He is one of at least 20 oligarchs in Turkey as they toe the line between Putin and Western restrictions.