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Abramovich arrives in Moscow, flying in from Israel via Turkey

Oligarch was spotted in Ben Gurion VIP lounge on Monday, in first sighting since he was sanctioned; UK welcomes Israel’s announcement it won’t allow oligarchs to bypass sanctions

Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich is seen at Ben Gurion Airport, March 14, 2022. (Screen grab/Walla)
Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich is seen at Ben Gurion Airport, March 14, 2022. (Screen grab/Walla)

Roman Abramovich landed in Moscow early Tuesday morning after a short stop in Turkey, Reuters confirmed, hours after the Russian-Israeli oligarch was photographed in the VIP departure lounge at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

Reuters said Abramovich is not in Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin, citing “a source familiar with the matter.”

Flight data flagged by a Twitter account that tracks the movement of oligarchs’ aircraft showed that a Gulfstream G650 belonging to Abramovich flew from Ben Gurion to Istanbul on Monday. Then the plane left Turkey and reached Moscow after taking a circuitous route to avoid both southeastern Ukraine, where there is heavy fighting, and the north Caucasus, instead flying over Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian sea, Kazakhstan and finally Russia.

Abramovich, an Israeli passport-holder, was sanctioned by the United Kingdom last week following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, essentially blocking him from his home in London.

On Sunday night, his aircraft took off from Moscow and landed in Tel Aviv. He apparently spent less than 24 hours on the ground in Israel. On Monday afternoon, a large vehicle was seen leaving his Herzliya home.

The sighting at the Ben Gurion Airport VIP terminal on Monday evening marked the first time Abramovich has been seen in public since he was hit by sanctions.

Meanwhile, one of Abramovich’s superyachts, Solaris, was on the move again, after being spotted on Saturday near the small Adriatic Sea state of Montenegro, having arrived from Barcelona.

It was not clear where Solaris was heading next, but on Tuesday morning it was in the Adriatic Sea between Albania and Italy.

Superyacht Solaris, owned by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, which is under UK sanctions, sails towards the luxury yacht marina Porto Montenegro, near Montenegrin city of Tivat, on the Adriatic coast, March 12, 2022. (SAVO PRELEVIC / AFP)

The 533-foot Eclipse, which Abramovich bought for nearly $400 million in 2010, was also on the move on Tuesday, tracked to the western Mediterranean. It was unclear where that boat was heading, too.

Russian oligarchs in the past days have sought to move their superyachts to safe locations to avoid confiscation because of the sanctions. Authorities in Italy, France, and other countries have impounded several luxury vessels.

UK welcomes Israel announcement

The British foreign secretary welcomed Israel’s announcement on Monday that it would not allow Russians to circumvent sanctions, in a tweet attached to a claim by an Israeli reporter that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had committed to comply with international sanctions.

“Welcome news from Yair Lapid that Israel will support sanctions against Russia. We are working with our allies and partners to apply pressure on Putin and challenge his unprovoked and needless attack on Ukraine,” tweeted Liz Truss.

Lapid said Monday that Israel was working to ensure that the country’s financial institutions do not make possible the circumvention of crippling sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

“Israel will not be a route to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries,” Lapid said.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on November 22, 2021; and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, on October 3, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90; AP Photo/Jon Super)

Israel has so far avoided joining Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs, seeking to take on the role of mediator between Russia and Ukraine, as it has good relations with both countries.

According to Hebrew media reports, however, the Israel Airports Authority has instructed staff at Ben Gurion Airport not to approve long-term parking of private jets belonging to US-sanctioned Russians. Channel 12 reported last week that the planes are now limited to no more than 48 hours on the ground in Israel.

Abramovich took on Israeli citizenship in 2018 after the UK refused to renew his visa there in 2018, amid a diplomatic spat between London and Moscow. He continued to own the English soccer club Chelsea, but tried to sell the team late last month once it became clear he would likely be targeted by sanctions.

Last week, London hit him with an assets freeze and travel ban as part of new UK government sanctions targeting seven Russian oligarchs. The sanctions block his ability to sell Chelsea.

The UK government has estimated Abramovich’s net worth at £9.4 billion (11.1 billion euros, $12.2 billion). He also controversially holds a Portuguese passport.

In this photo, released by the Israel’s Government Press Office, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (left) talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at Stamford Bridge, in London, November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/Israel’s Government Press Office via AP)

Abramovich is a major donor to causes in Israel, including the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem.

This has placed Israel in the difficult position of having to adhere to US and EU sanctions while trying to maintain good relations with several prominent donors to Jewish and Israeli causes.

Yad Vashem announced last week that it was suspending a newly announced “strategic partnership” with Abramovich, weeks after it said he had pledged an “eight-digit donation” to strengthen its endeavors in the areas of Holocaust research and remembrance. Its announcement did not specify what would become of this money.

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