Abramovich played ‘key role’ in freeing Britons held in Ukraine – report
Former owner of sanctioned Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich played a “key role” in the release of five men held by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, according to a report on Friday.
One of five men freed in a prisoner swap earlier this week, John Harding, said the Russian oligarch identified himself to fellow inmate Shaun Pinner after boarding their flight to Riyadh.
Harding, meanwhile, said he spoke to Abramovich’s aide who said the Russian played a “key role” in their release, The Sun daily reported.
The released prisoners were flown to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took part in the negotiations.
Abramovich, 55, was sanctioned by the British government on March 10, with Downing Street saying he had proven his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is also subject to European sanctions.
“Shaun talked to him (Abramovich) about football for a long time and I was talking to his assistant,” Harding told The Sun.
“She said Roman was key to our comeback,” Harding told the Daily.
“He’s highly respected by Ukrainians and massively by us now too – he’s done a lot for us and we can’t thank him enough,” he added.
The five British men – Harding, Pinner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill – were freed in a record prisoner swap which also freed American, Moroccan, Swedish and Croatian nationals as well as Ukrainian and separatists and a major pro. – Politician from Moscow.
The British prisoners had been held by Russian proxies in the separatist center of Donetsk after joining the war as volunteer fighters and aid workers.
Aslin and Pinner were sentenced to death in June, while the other three men were tried in August on the same charge of serving as mercenaries.
A Briton, Paul Urey, died in captivity after his detention in April shortly after the start of the war.
Last month, imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called for more systematic punitive measures against Russian oligarchs backing Putin and the war in Ukraine.
He said Abramovich had so far evaded US sanctions despite his companies “supplying metal to the Russian Defense Ministry”.