Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, under UK and EU sanction, was on the plane returning five selected Britons to Ukraine and was said to have played a ‘key role’ in their release, according to the testimony of one of them daily The sun this Friday.
John Harding, one of five Britons freed by Moscow in a prisoner swap with kyiv, says the Russian billionaire, former owner of London football club Chelsea, introduced himself to one of the ex-prisoners , Shaun Pinner, on the plane that took them from Russia to Saudi Arabia.
Shaun Pinner “told him, ‘You look a lot like Roman Abramovich,’ and he said, ‘It’s because it’s me,’” says John Harding of the oligarch, who assured him that this the latter had played a “key role” in the release of the five prisoners.
Roman Abramovich has been under British government sanction since March 10, with Downing Street claiming to have evidence of his links with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on February 24 ordered his army to invade Ukraine. He is also on the list of personalities sanctioned by the European Union.
Roman Abramovich’s Contested Freedom
Also according to John Harding, Shaun Pinner “talked with him (Abramovich) about football for a long time” during the trip. The five Britons – John Harding, Shaun Pinner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill – were released as part of an exchange of 10 prisoners of war, facilitated by Saudi mediation.
The two prime ministers had been sentenced to death, alongside Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, also involved in the prisoner exchange, for mercenary – a disputed charge – by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Last month, Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, currently in prison, called for the systematic punishment of all oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin or supporting the war in Ukraine. He notably regretted that Roman Abramovich still escapes American sanctions to this day, while some of his companies “will continue to supply metal to the Russian Ministry of Defense”.