Abramovich’s plane lands in Turkey after Russian oligarch is seen in Israel

  • The photo shows Abramovich at Israel’s Tel Aviv airport.
  • An Abramovich plane flew to Istanbul from Israel
  • Britain imposed sanctions on the oligarch, with the EU following

JERUSALEM/ISTANBUL, March 14 (Reuters) – A plane linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich arrived in Istanbul from Israel on Monday, shortly after being spotted at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

Abramovich was among seven Russian billionaires added to a British sanctions list last week in an attempt to insulate President Vladimir Putin from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. European Union diplomats have taken a similar approach. Read more

The Russian oligarch, who also holds Israeli and Portuguese citizenship, denied having close ties to Putin.

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A photograph obtained by Reuters shows Abramovich, the owner of British soccer club Chelsea, sitting in the VIP lounge at Tel Aviv airport with a face mask pulled down over his chin. Reuters could not verify whether he had boarded the flight.

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that the plane used by Abramovich flew to Ben-Gurion on Sunday evening from Moscow. Flight-tracking website FLIGHTRADAR24 said the plane, which has the tail number LX-RAY and is a large Gulfstream business jet, landed in Istanbul on Monday after departing Israel.

It was not planned to fly from Istanbul after landing and remained there, according to a source citing flight plans. The plane was also in Turkey last week, according to tracking data.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is the site of the headquarters of AB Grup Holding, a company headed by Muhsin Bayrak, which has publicly expressed interest in buying Premier League club Chelsea from Abramovich.

Bayrak has interests in construction, energy and real estate, and said he was talking to Abramovich about the sale process.

Abramovich said last week he was selling the London club, but that sale is now on hold with Chelsea operating under a special government license and the Premier League board have disqualified him as a club manager. Read more

A UK Department for Transport source said on Friday that Britain was looking for helicopters and planes belonging to the sanctioned oligarchs. Read more

Several properties, including lavish yachts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, have been seized by European authorities in recent days.

According to tracking sites Marine Traffic and Vessel Finder, Abramovich’s $600 million Solaris yacht was off Montenegro bound for Istanbul. But at 20:30 GMT, the ship’s status changed to “awaiting orders” and its destination was removed.

NATO member Turkey has close ties to kyiv and Moscow and has balanced its criticism of Ukraine’s invasion with its opposition to Western sanctions against Moscow. Russia calls its troop movement in Ukraine a “special military operation”.

CALL FOR SANCTIONS

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 on Friday, Victoria Nuland, the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, said Washington is asking Israel to join in the financial and export sanctions against Russia.

Speaking in Slovakia, a country bordering Ukraine, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that Israel “will not be a way around the sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other countries Westerners”.

Lapid did not say directly whether Israel was considering its own sanctions. But he said the Foreign Ministry was “coordinating the issue with partners such as the Bank of Israel, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy, Airports Authority, Ministry of Energy and others”.

Asked for details, the Bank of Israel said in a statement to Reuters that it was “continuously monitoring developments in payment systems, markets and the financial system.”

Any Israeli sanctions could complicate Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s efforts to arbitrate the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. He spoke in Moscow with Putin on March 5 and spoke on the phone several times with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

A senior Israeli official said Abramovich was not involved in Israel’s mediation efforts.

Sympathy for Ukraine is strong in Israel. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem said Thursday it had suspended a strategic partnership with Abramovich following Britain’s ruling against him.

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Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller in Bratislava; Steven Scheer in Modiin; Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul; and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Editing by Dominic Evans and Howard Goller

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Sharon P. Juarez