Why Zelensky reportedly asked Biden to hold off on sanctioning a Russian oligarch

Roman Abramovich.
(Image credit: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

A new report from The Wall Street Journal alleges Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requested President Biden hold off on levying sanctions on Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in case he proves an important "go-between" in peace negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.

Apparently, the U.S. Treasury Department had, earlier this month, drafted a set of sanctions to punish Abramovich, also the owner of the U.K.'s Chelsea Football Club. But when it was time to announce the measures, "which had been designed to go out in tandem with sanctions from the U.K. and European Union," the Treasury was asked to refrain for now, the Journal writes.

As for why, well, apparently during a consultation between the two world leaders, Zelensky himself asked Biden to wait, in the event Abramovich is able to help Ukraine's cause.

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The White House and Zelensky's office declined to comment.

"For the negotiations, and in the interest of them succeeding, it is not helpful commenting on the process nor on Mr. Abramovich's involvement," added a spokesperson for the oligarch, adding that "he has been doing all he can to support efforts aimed at restoring peace as soon as possible."

Multiple U.K. and European officials said they were unaware of such a request from Zelensky, with several Ukrainian and Western government officials "skeptical about how deeply Mr. Abramovich is involved in the peace talks," the Journal writes.

The delay is certainly "an unexpected twist" in the U.S. sanctions strategy.

In the past, Abramovich has often denied having any sort of close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

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