Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is making attempts to broker a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine, according to his spokesman.
The Russian billionaire has come under pressure to speak out following the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin‘s forces.
Some MPs have been calling for him to face sanctions as a major oligarch “with links to the Russian state”.
A spokesman for the Chelsea owner said: “I can confirm that Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since.
“Considering what is at stake, we would ask for your understanding as to why we have not commented on neither the situation as such nor his involvement.”
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Mr Abramovich’s involvement followed a request from Ukrainian film producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
No details about his role have been announced – but it was acknowledged his influence was “limited”.
Mr Rodnyansky said: “I can confirm that the Ukrainian side have been trying to find someone in Russia willing to help them in finding a peaceful resolution.
“They are connected to Roman Abramovich through the Jewish community and reached out to him for help.”
He added: “Roman Abramovich has been trying to mobilise support for a peaceful resolution ever since.
“Although Roman 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.”
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The Russian billionaire issued a 110-word statement on Saturday, which did not mention Russia or Ukraine, announcing he would be stepping away from control of Chelsea but would remain the owner.
But the move came at a time when Western countries are imposing increasingly stringent sanctions on Russian oligarchs and interests, over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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His statement was heavily criticised before Chelsea then released a second, shorter statement 14 hours later on Sunday morning, saying: “The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating. Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.”
After stepping back from day-to-day running of Chelsea, Mr Abramovich has tried to hand stewardship to the west London club’s charitable foundation trustees.
But the six Chelsea Foundation trustees have not yet agreed to take over the club, and want more information about whether the decision would be compatible with UK charity law.
Last week, Labour former minister Chris Bryant called for Mr Abramovich to be banned from owning the club in the House of Commons.
He highlighted a leaked 2019 Home Office document which stated that the Russian oligarch “remains of interest to HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices”.