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Yad Vashem suspends ties with Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich

Weeks after eight-figure donation from billionaire, Israel’s Holocaust museum hits pause after UK freezes assets and places travel ban on Abramovich for his past ties to Putin

Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich applauds his players after they defeated Arsenal 6-0, in an English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, on March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich applauds his players after they defeated Arsenal 6-0, in an English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, on March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum announced on Thursday that it will suspend ties with Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich following new sanctions imposed upon him over his past connections with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“In light of recent developments, Yad Vashem has decided to suspend the strategic partnership with Mr. Roman Abramovich,” the museum said in a statement.

Abramovich, who is Jewish and holds Israeli citizenship, is a major donor to causes in Israel.

Yad Vashem museum announced last month that Abramovich pledged an “eight-digit donation”  to strengthen its endeavors in the areas of Holocaust research and remembrance, estimated to be at least NIS 10 million ($3 million). Its announcement Thursday did not specify what would become of this money.

Earlier on Thursday, the UK officially sanctioned Abramovich along with six other Russian oligarchs over their ties to the Kremlin.

Abramovich announced last week that he was selling his Chelsea Football Club. He had bought the English Premier League soccer team in 2003, and bankrolled its successes at the domestic and European level.

The latest sanctions imposed by the UK government freeze his ability to sell the club.

The UK government has estimated Abramovich’s net worth at £9.4 billion (11.1 billion euros, $12.2 billion), but said it was mitigating the effect of the sanctions on Chelsea by allowing the club to continue to operate.

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)

The billionaire is one of Russia’s highest-profile oligarchs and has been highlighted in the past for links to Putin, who is being ostracized globally for launching the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The Yad Vashem announcement came just over two weeks after a letter reportedly sent to US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, urging Washington not to impose sanctions on the Russian-Israeli billionaire.

Among the signatories on the letter, dated February 6, were Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Sheba Medical Center director-general Prof. Yitshak Kreiss and representatives of several other major Israeli organizations and charities.

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