Roman Abramovich: Chelsea’s Russian owner speaking with Ukraine

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been asked by Ukraine to help support their attempts to reach a “peaceful resolution” with Russia.

The Russian billionaire’s spokesperson said Abramovich was contacted by Ukrainian officials and “has been trying to help ever since”.

Ukraine has called for a ceasefire before peace talks in Belarus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday.

Ukraine’s health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since Russia’s invasion began.

Abramovich announced on Saturday that “stewardship and care” of the club was being given to trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation.

Abramovich – who remains Chelsea’s owner with £1.5bn loaned to the club – did not reference Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in his statement.

The 55-year-old is one of Russia’s richest people and is believed to be close to Russian President Putin.

Ukrainian film director and producer Alexander Rodnyansky confirmed the Chelsea owner’s involvement in attempts to reach a peaceful resolution, but added he is unsure of the impact it will have.

“I can confirm that the Ukrainian side have been trying to find someone in Russia willing to help them in finding a peaceful resolution,” said Rodnyansky.

“They are connected to Roman Abramovich through the Jewish community and reached out to him for help. Abramovich has been trying to mobilize support for a peaceful resolution ever since.

“Although Abramovich’s influence is limited, he is the only one who responded and taken it upon himself to try.

“If this will have an impact or not, I don’t know, but I am in contact with [Ukraine President Volodymyr] Zelensky’s staff myself, and know that they are grateful for his genuine efforts.”

It is not known yet if Abramovich will be sanctioned as part of the UK government’s measures against Russia, and the trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation have not yet agreed to take control of the club.

Members of the charitable foundation met on Sunday to discuss the situation, but some have concerns over whether Charity Commission rules would allow them to run the club and the foundation’s lawyers are exploring what can be done.

‘Russia must be excluded from World Cup’

Football’s world governing body Fifa has ruled that Russia must complete their upcoming games in neutral territory, under the title Football Union of Russia, and without their flag and anthem.

However, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have joined several other nations, including England and Wales, as well as Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden, in refusing to play against Russia.

On Monday, Scottish FA president Rod Petrie wrote to his Ukrainian counterpart “to send a message of support, friendship and unity”, with those two nations due to meet in their World Cup play-off semi-final on 24 March.

Russia are scheduled to face Poland in the play-offs on the same day, followed by a final meeting with the Czech Republic or Sweden on 29 March should they win.

The British Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Powell, told BBC Breakfast that Fifa must exclude Russia from major tournaments.

“I think fans across the UK, Europe and the world are united in saying it should be totally inconceivable that Russia could take part in the World Cup, or that the women’s team could take part in the women’s Euro finals here in July,” Powell said.

“Fifa really need to step up here. Make it clear that Russia should be excluded from the World Cup – they cannot take part in that – and that should apply across all international sporting bodies.

“While they undertake such a barbaric and illegal invasion in Ukraine they will become the pariah state when it comes to sporting and cultural events.”

The International Paralympic Committee is to meet on Wednesday to discuss Russia, just two days before the start of the Beijing Winter Games.

Athletes from Ukraine and other nations have written an open letter calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IPC to suspend Russia and Belarus.

Bundesliga club Schalke has announced it has cancelled its partnership with main sponsor Gazprom – the official partner of the Uefa Champions League – having last week removed the Russian energy company’s logo from its shirts.

‘I have to fight for my country’

Badminton’s world governing body (BWF) is the latest such organisation to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, announcing the cancellation of all tournaments in Russia and Belarus in addition to banning the national flags and anthems of the two nations.

“BWF will continue to monitor the situation closely and will proactively consult our international sport movement partners to discuss other options to potentially strengthen measures against the governments of Russia and Belarus,” it said.

The Ukrainian Tennis Federation has called on the sport’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to expel Russia and Belarus from the organisation and ban Russia from individual and team tournaments.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, who became the ATP’s world number one on Monday, has tweeted a message calling for peace.

The ITF said: “This is a fast-evolving situation; we are in active discussion with the ITF tennis family and the ITF Board to decide and align around our next course of action.”

At the Fencing World Cup in Cairo on Sunday, Ukraine’s men’s foil team refused to fence against Russia.

Ukraine’s Klod Younes told BBC Radio 5 Live that he and his team-mates now intend to return home and defend their country.

“I knew before the competition [that I would not fence against them]. I told my team-mates and they supported me and said they would do the same,” Younes said.

“Today we are going to try to re-book our ticket and we will try to go to Poland, to Hungary, and then we will figure out what to do.”

On whether he and his team-mates will fight if necessary, he added: “Of course. This is our country. This is my country. I have to fight for it. I am defending my territory.”

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