Speculation regarding the whereabouts of targeted Russian-Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich ratcheted up Sunday after a plane belonging to him was spotted landing in Tel Aviv.
Abramovich, an Israel passport-holder who owns the English premier League’s Chelsea soccer club, was sanctioned by the UK last week following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, essentially blocking him from his home in London.
Portuguese citizenship he acquired last year by claiming Sephardic heritage has also come under scrutiny, with the rabbi that vouched for him being detained Thursday.
Flight data flagged by a Twitter account that tracks the movement of Abramovich’s six aircraft showed that a Gulfstream G650 belonging to Abramovich landed in Tel Aviv at around 9 p.m. local time Sunday.
The plane had taken off from Moscow. It was not known if Abramovich or any members of his family were aboard.
Last week, the Ynet news site reported that the Jewish-Russian oligarch was seen dining in a high-end restaurant in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The news site later removed the article without explanation.
Abramovich has become a top target of officials in the US and Europe who have vowed to seize yachts, jets and other assets belonging to Russian oligarchs as a means of pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine. The movement of several oligarchs, Abramovich included, have been hotly tracked by hobbyists using public data to report on the movement of their private aircraft and yachts.
According to @RUOligarchJets, a Twitter account run by US teen Jack Sweeney, Abramovich’s G650, which is registered in Luxembourg, had moved between Moscow and Turkey several times earlier this month.
Roman Abramovich's Jet LX-RAY Landed in Tel Aviv, Central District, IL. Apx. flt. time 5 Hours : 33 Mins. pic.twitter.com/x5X5VfFTXn
— Russian Oligarch Jets (@RUOligarchJets) March 13, 2022
The plane flew to Moscow from Baku, Azerbaijan on March 1, and later left for Istanbul. A day later the plane flew to Ankara, where it stayed until returning to Istanbul on March 4. On Saturday, the plane left Istanbul for Moscow and on Sunday made the trip to Ben-Gurion Airport.
A 787 Dreamliner, also registered to Abramovich, was seen moving between Moscow and Dubai in early March. In addition a helicopter belonging to the billionaire was tracked zipping around islands in Bermuda in late February.
Israel has said it will prevent Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the US from keeping their planes and yachts in Israel but is unable to stop Abramovich from entering the country.
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 Chelsea, but tried to sell the team late last month once it became clear he would likely be targeted by sanctions.
On Thursday, London hit him with an assets freeze and travel ban as part of new UK government sanctions targeting seven Russian oligarchs. The sanctions freeze 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).
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 Thursday did not specify what would become of this money.
The US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, said Friday that Israel should get onboard with Western sanctions, and bar Russian oligarchs. “You don’t want to become the last haven for dirty money that’s fueling Putin’s wars,” Nuland said.