Abramovich loses influence as mediator between Ukraine and Russia, WSJ report says

28 January, 01:33 AM
Roman Abramovich (Photo:REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

Roman Abramovich (Photo:REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

While Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich remains a mediator between Ukraine and Russia, he now deals only with negotiations regarding POW exchanges and grain exports from Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 26.

Ukrainian, U.S., and European officials say they no longer expect that Abramovich “could play a key role in brokering dialogue in the war.”

WSJ’s Kremlin-adjacent sources claim Abramovich remains an acceptable middleman for Ukraine and its allies, as well as for Russian dictator Putin. The sources say the oligarch has personally met with Putin and has spoken to him on the phone several times since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He also has direct contact with Putin's chief of staff, Anton Vaino.

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“Mr. Abramovich takes the Ukrainian point of view directly to Mr. Putin, according to the people, and then conveys the Kremlin’s views directly to Kyiv,” the article says.

“He helps with smaller prisoner exchanges every few weeks.”

Adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President's Office, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that Abramovich's role could be useful “if there’s a need to get involved in some issues.”

“But it’s not the mediator role he had in the first rounds of the negotiation process (in spring 2022),” added Podolyak.

According to WSJ, Abramovich's role as a mediator began with a late-night phone call from his acquaintance, movie director Alexander Rodnyansky, who said that Ukraine needed someone to “tell Putin the truth and make him stop the fighting.” Abramovich agreed to try. 

The report states that the oligarch's motives are often questioned by Western officials, who see his actions as “a naked attempt to get (personal) sanctions lifted.”

The article also says that currently Abramovich focused mainly on issues related to the war, travelling between Sochi, Istanbul, and Tel Aviv, while his yachts stay in Turkish waters, where they are “safe from the seizures” by law enforcement.

Ukraine imposed sanctions against 256 Russian businessmen and their relatives on Oct. 20, 2022, including against Abramovich. He is the only one on whom sanctions are imposed with the condition that they will come in force only after the procedures on POW exchange between Ukraine and Russia are complete.

At the end of March 2022, Podolyak, said that Abramovich is an “extremely effective mediator” in the negotiations and helps to “partially moderate the process.” In April 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed that Abramovich was part of the Russian negotiating team and had visited Kyiv.

Financial Times’ sources stated that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin personally approved Abramovich's participation in the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. WSJ later wrote that Zelenskyy asked his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden not to impose sanctions on the Russian oligarch – because of his role as a middle man in the negotiations.

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