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Roman Abramovich: Sanctioned oligarch spotted in exclusive Tel Aviv restaurant

Chelsea owner seen dining in a private room at a luxury restaurant, day before being sanctioned by UK government
Abramovich was one of seven Russian oligarchs who have had sanctions placed on them by the UK on Thursday (AFP)

Roman Abramovich, who was sanctioned on Thursday by the UK government amid a crackdown on Russian oligarchs, was spotted on Wednesday evening dining in a private room at a luxury restaurant in Tel Aviv, according to Israel's Ynet, which later removed the story from its website.

Later on Thursday, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre “suspended” a major donation by Abramovich, distancing itself from him in a statement.

“Due to [recent] developments, Yad Vashem has decided to suspend its strategic partnership with Mr Roman Abramovich,” the memorial centre said.

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Israel has previously said it will prevent Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the US from keeping their planes and yachts in Israel, but is unable to stop Abramovich, who holds Israeli, as well as Russian and Portuguese citizenship, from entering the country.

Israel has said oligarchs cannot leave their planes or yachts on its soil for more than 48 hours without them being impounded, prompting speculation that Abramovich may have arrived on a chartered or passenger plane that he did not own.

"We must not be portrayed as a country through which sanctions can be circumvented," an Israeli official said at the time 

Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, was one of seven more Russian oligarchs who had sanctions placed on them by the UK on Thursday.

A British government document announcing the move said Abramovich has had a "close relationship for decades" with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the government of Russia," it said.

Chelsea sale

Abramovich said last week that he would sell Chelsea after almost 20 years of ownership, adding that the net proceeds from the sale would be donated to "all victims of the war in Ukraine".

The UK government has issued a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket-holders to attend matches.

The government said it was also open to considering a further addition to the special licence that will allow the sale of the club, on the condition Abramovich receives no funds from the transaction.

Abramovich will have his assets frozen, face a prohibition on transactions with UK individuals and businesses, and a travel ban forbidding him to enter Britain.

Thursday's announcement, which comes 117 years to the day since Chelsea was founded, also says that planes and yachts owned or chartered by Abramovich can be seized.

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