Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has been hit with an assets freeze and travel ban as part of new UK government sanctions targeting seven Russian oligarchs.
Among others sanctioned are leading industrialist Oleg Deripaska, Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin and the head of Gazprom Alexey Miller, the government announced on Thursday.
Speculation has swirled for weeks about whether Abramovich would be included in the targeted action against Russian billionaires perceived to be close to the Kremlin.
Abramovich announced last week that he was selling Chelsea, after buying the English Premier League side in 2003 and bankrolling its successes at the domestic and European level.
The UK government estimated his net worth at £9.4 billion ($12.3bn), but said it was mitigating the effect of the sanctions on Chelsea by allowing the club to continue to operate.
A special licence “authorises a number of football-related activities”, the government said in a statement.
“This includes permissions for the club to continue playing matches and other football-related activity which will in turn protect the Premier League, the wider football pyramid, loyal fans and other clubs,” it added.
Deripaska, who has stakes in En+ Group, an Anglo-Russian green energy and metals company, is Abramovich’s one-time business partner, while officials described Sechin as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “right-hand man”.
The four others – Miller, VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Transneft chief Nikolai Tokarev and Bank Rossiya chairman Dmitri Lebedev – are part of his inner circle, according to the UK government.
Collectively, the seven have a net worth of about £15 billion ($19.2bn), the statement read.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the sanctions “the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people”.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added: “Today’s sanctions show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society.
“With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression. The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame,” she said.