EU discusses sanctions on Roman Abramovich and other Russians

New package of EU sanctions and trade restrictions could come into force as early as Monday

File photo dated 19-12-2015 of Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich who has been disqualified as a director of Chelsea, the Premier League has announced. Issue date: Saturday March 12, 2022. PA

European Union governments are discussing sanctioning the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich, along with more than a dozen other prominent Russians, according to documents seen by Bloomberg and people familiar with the matter.

The list, which still needs to be approved by EU governments and could change before that happens, also includes Tigran Khudaverdyan, the executive director and deputy CEO of Yandex NV, a Russian internet search engine that also operates a large ride-hailing operation, and Victor Rashnikov, who owns Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel PJSC, one of Russia’s biggest steelmakers.

EU ambassadors met on Sunday to discuss a fourth round of sanctions and trade restrictions, after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen previewed the measures on Friday. Diplomats aim to finalise the package as early as Monday.

Other Russians who will be potentially targeted in this latest round of penalties include energy and mining executives, as well as leading media figures accused of spreading the Kremlin’s anti-Ukraine propaganda, for a total of some 15 individuals and nine entities.

The EU’s move against Mr Abramovich — Russia’s eighth-richest man according to Bloomberg data — would follow the UK’s decision last week to freeze his assets, including the football club.

The EU is also planning restrictions on some steel imports and on exports of luxury goods from Europe, as they continue to discuss what thresholds to apply.

Ms Von der Leyen said Friday that the latest sanctions round, which includes a move to deny Russia most-favoured-nation trading status at the World Trade Organisation, are intended “to further isolate Russia and drain the resources it uses to finance this barbaric war.”

Mr Abramovich is the largest shareholder for Evraz Plc., a steel-mining business.

Evraz released a statement saying it doesn’t consider Abramovich — who has a 28.6 per cent stake — to be “a person exercising the effective control” of the company, and said that sanctions applied by the UK and Canada don’t apply to the company itself.

Mr Abramovich’s two superyachts — which together span almost 1,000 feet (305 meters) and cost well over $1 billion combined — both left port just days ahead of the UK’s sanctions announcement.

If the list is approved, Mr Abramovich and the others would join the registrar of tycoons sanctioned since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including metals tycoon Alisher Usmanov; Alfa Group owners Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven; Alexei Mordashov, who controls a major steel company; Igor Sechin, chief executive officer of oil company Rosneft; and Nikolay Tokarev, CEO of oil company Transneft.

Following the introduction of those measures, several countries, including Italy and France, impounded assets belonging to sanctioned individuals.

Updated: March 14, 2022, 1:12 AM