Early Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam were central to the major prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine this week, according to several media outlets.
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Ukraine handed over 55 prisoners, including pro-Russian leader and tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk.
Russia, for its part, surrendered 255 prisoners. The majority of these are said to have been involved in the bloody battle over the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.
In addition, there were eight foreigners, several of whom were sentenced to death in the “people’s republic” of Donetsk.
According to the Daily Mail, British prisoner John Harding (59) says that Roman Abramovich was involved in the negotiations. Bloomberg writes that they have confirmation from three people about Abramovich’s role in the exchange.
Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner are among those released – see video:
According to Bloomberg, Abramovich and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met in Riyadh in late August as part of talks leading up to the prisoner exchange.
The large, Kremlin-controlled Russian media have not mentioned that the oligarch Abramovich was involved in the negotiations, for unknown reasons.
Neither a spokesperson for Abramovich nor the government of Saudi Arabia has commented on the matter to Bloomberg.
On the other hand, it is a fact that the prisoner exchange has been met with criticism by the far right in Russian politics. The fearless Igor Girkin, who believes that the Kremlin is not tough enough in Ukraine, writes on Telegram that the prisoner exchange is “incredible stupidity”.
He believes it is “worse than a crime” that the foreign foreign fighters are exchanged. Girkin believes that it is particularly inappropriate to do something like this in the same week that Vladimir Putin orders a partial mobilization.
Had to sell
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry already thanked Crown Prince Salman on Thursday for his “important role” in the negotiations to release the foreign fighters, who were flown precisely to Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh after they were released.
Roman Abramovich took part in the peace talks this spring, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked US President Joe Biden not to impose sanctions on Abramovich – because he could be a useful person in the negotiations.
However, Britain and the EU have imposed sanctions on Abramovich. That meant he had to sell the football club Chelsea. In late May, the Premier League approved the sale from the Russian, who had owned Chelsea since 2003, to American businessman Todd Boehly and a consortium. The price was 4.25 billion pounds, which corresponds to close to 50 billion kroner at today’s exchange rate.
With grain agreement
Abramovich promised to donate the proceeds to a foundation for the benefit of victims of the war in Ukraine. However, the funds are frozen, according to Bloomberg.
The Financial Times wrote this spring that Putin personally approved that Abramovich could be such a bridge between the countries. The multibillionaire has never broken with the Russian president. For a time, Abramovich sat in the upper house of the parliament after he was the governor of the region called Chukotka, which is located at the very edge of the Pacific Ocean, in Russia’s so-called “Far East”.
Roman Abramovich was also involved in negotiating the so-called grain agreement in July, photos from the negotiations in Istanbul showed. It meant that grain could finally be exported out of Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea.