Abramovich played a ‘key role’ in releasing Britons held by Russian-backed forces

LONDON (Reuters) – Roman Abramovich, the sanctioned former owner of Chelsea Football Club, played a “key role” in the release of five men held by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, a report said on Friday.

John Harding, one of the five men released in a prisoner exchange earlier this week, said the Russian oligarch introduced herself to fellow detained man Sean Boehner after they boarded their plane to Riyadh.

Meanwhile, Harding said he spoke to Abramovich’s aide who said the Russian played a “key role” in their release, The Sun daily reported. mentioned.

The released prisoners were transferred to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Wednesday, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman participated in the negotiations.

Abramovich, 55, was sanctioned by the UK government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming he had established links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is also subject to European Union sanctions. The oligarch also holds Israeli citizenship.

Shawn was talking away [Abramovich] Harding told The Sun.

Ukrainian soldiers leave a shelter in the recently retaken Kobyansk in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, September 22, 2022 (AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov)

“She said Roman played a key role in bringing us back,” Harding told the newspaper.

He added: “He is very respected by the Ukrainians and we are widely known now too – he has done so much for us and we cannot thank him enough.”

The five British men – Harding, Benner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill – were released as part of a standard prisoner exchange that also released US, Moroccan, Swedish and Croat nationals as well as Ukrainian, separatist and key fighters. – Politician from Moscow.

British prisoners of war were being held by Russian agents in the separatist center of Donetsk after joining the war as volunteer fighters and aid workers.

Aslin and Benner were sentenced to death in June, while the other three men were tried in August on the same charge of acting as a mercenary.

A British man, Paul Urey, died in captivity after his arrest in April shortly after the start of the war.

Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny last month called for more systematic punitive measures against the Russian oligarchy that backs Putin and the war in Ukraine.

He said that Abramovich has so far escaped US sanctions even though his companies “supply the Russian Defense Ministry with minerals”.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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