Roman Abramovich: Yad Vashem distances itself from UK-sanctioned oligarch
Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre has “suspended” a major donation by the billionaire Roman Abramovich, distancing itself from him in a statement.
The move came after the United Kingdom placed sanctions on the Chelsea Football Club owner earlier on Thursday.
“Due to [recent] developments, Yad Vashem has decided to suspend its strategic partnership with Mr Roman Abramovich,” the memorial centre said.
On 23 February, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine, Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem, announced that Abramovich had made an eight-figure donation to the centre, amounting to millions of shekels, that "will significantly strengthen Yad Vashem's mission".
“This partnership highlights his continued dedication to Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism, and buttresses Yad Vashem’s determination to remain the gatekeeper of accurate, fact-based memory of the Shoah,” Dayan said.
Abramovich, who was sanctioned 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.
Abramovich was one of seven more Russian oligarchs who had sanctions placed on them by the UK on Thursday in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
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.
Backing for Abramovich
Earlier this month, Israeli media reported that Yad Vashem and several influential figures had asked the US ambassador not to sanction Abramovich prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Dayan and other public figures, including Chief Rabbi David Lau and Yitshak Kreiss, the director of Sheba Medical Center, wrote to the US ambassador in Israel, Tom Nides, urging Washington not to sanction the oligarch.
The letter to Nides was dated 6 February, a few weeks before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, following reports that the US was assembling a list of figures and enterprises to be sanctioned if Russia attacked Ukraine, according to the Times of Israel.
The letter to Nides said that sanctioning Abramovich "would be both unfair and would negatively impact Israel and the Jewish world".
Abramovich, who served as the governor of the eastern Russian province of Chukotka from 2000 to 2008, was the second-largest donor to Yad Vashem after the Jewish American billionaires Miriam and Sheldon Adelson.