Zelenskyy reportedly asked Biden to drop plans to sanction a Russian oligarch who took part in peace talks

Zelenskyy reportedly asked Biden to drop plans to sanction a Russian oligarch who took part in peace talks
Spokespeople for Roman Abramovich and the Kremlin confirmed that the Russian billionaire had been involved in some early peace talks.Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP, Mason/Getty Images, Laurent Van der Stockt for Le Monde/Getty Images
  • The US delayed sanctioning Roman Abramovich after a request from Zelenskyy, The Journal reported.
  • The Ukrainian president told Biden that Abramovich could take part in peace talks, the report said.

The US dropped plans to sanction the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich following a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Treasury officials earlier this month drafted sanctions targeting Abramovich, aimed to be released in tandem with sanctions from the UK and the European Union, people familiar with the plans told the publication.

But the White House's National Security Council told the Treasury to put the plan on hold after Zelenskyy told US President Joe Biden in a phone call that he should wait because Abramovich may be useful in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, The Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the call.

The Kremlin said on Thursday that Abramovich had joined some initial peace talks, Reuters reported.

"He did take part at the initial stage," a Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters, according to Reuters. "Now the negotiations are between the two teams, the Russians and Ukrainians."


The EU has said Abramovich, who owns Chelsea Football Club and who Bloomberg estimates is worth about $14 billion, has "long and close ties" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He has had privileged access to the president, and has maintained very good relations with him," the EU added.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Western allies have imposed sweeping sanctions aiming to hobble Russia's economy, cut funding to its military, and put pressure on Putin to end the war. The measures include sanctioning Russian elites and oligarchs.

While the US hasn't sanctioned Abramovich, he was among the oligarchs sanctioned by the UK on March 10 and by the EU on March 15.

Ukrainian government officials had reached out to people with Russian contacts in the hope that they could facilitate discussions with Putin, The Journal reported. The people included a film producer who reached out to Abramovich.


A spokesperson for Abramovich confirmed the billionaire's involvement to The Journal and said he had offered to help Ukraine's government achieve a "peaceful resolution."

"For the negotiations, and in the interest of them succeeding, it is not helpful commenting on the process nor on Mr. Abramovich's involvement," Abramovich's spokesperson told The Journal.

The spokesperson added: "As previously stated, based on requests, including from Jewish organizations in Ukraine, he has been doing all he can to support efforts aimed at restoring peace as soon as possible."

A spokesperson for the National Security Council told The Journal that it wouldn't share details of "private conversations" between Biden and Zelenskyy.

A State Department spokesperson told The Journal that Biden was working "to ensure collectively we can do all we can to hold to account all those responsible for this war for this needless conflict," but declined to comment specifically on discussions about sanctions against Abramovich.


The US State Department, the White House, and the Treasury did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The US has sanctioned Russian individuals including Alisher Usmanov, a metals and mining tycoon, and Igor Sechin, the CEO of the oil giant Rosneft.