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Growing pressure on Roman Abramovich to condemn Vladimir Putin

Growing pressure on Roman Abramovich to condemn Vladimir Putin

Roman Abramovich faced growing pressure on Thursday to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Chelsea owner announced on Wednesday that he is selling the club with the “net proceeds” going to a charity supporting victims of the war in Ukraine.

However, he stopped short of criticising the Kremlin’s military action which has reportedly led to around 2,000 civilians dying, with thousands of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers also said to have died.

As the world reeled in horror at atrocities being carried out, the International Criminal Court opened an investigation on Wednesday into the invasion after Britain and 37 allies referred Russia over what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as “abhorrent” attacks.

Senior Labour MP Chris Bryant tweeted: “The only statement I want to hear from Roman Abramovich is ‘this invasion is illegal, Vladimir Putin send the Russian troops home immediately’.”

Earlier, England football legend Alan Shearer told the BBC: “It’s a huge moment for Chelsea Football Club.

“Abramovich has brought massive success over his 20 years but it is not simple selling a football club, it can take months of years.

“But more importantly there is still no condemnation from Roman or the club about what is happening in Ukraine.”

Russian-Israeli billionaire Mr Abramovich denies he has done anything to merit being sanctioned by Britain.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned Mr Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday as to why this had not already happened.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said work would begin “immediately” on an investigation into the invasion, with his team already collecting evidence, after the co-ordinated referral freed him to get to work without the need for judicial approval.

Mr Johnson warned the Russian president he “cannot commit these horrific acts with impunity”.

In the statement released by Chelsea, Mr Abramovich said: “As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart.

“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.

“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner. However, I do believe this is in the best interest of the club.”

He also pledged to wipe out his £1.5billion loan, as well as divert all net proceeds from the sale to aid those suffering from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.