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Abramovich’s plane in Israel, minister says there is no sanctuary for Russians who are under sanctions

Abramovich's plane in Israel, minister says there is no sanctuary for Russians who are under sanctions

Football – Chelsea – Crystal Palace – Premier League – Stamford Bridge – 3/5/15 Roman Abramovich Chelsea owner in the stands. Action images via Reuters/John Sibley

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A plane suspected of being sanctioned Romanian oligarchs was being used by Roman Abramovich in Israel on Monday, but the foreign minister said the country was not a haven for Russian businessmen subject to an international asset freeze over the invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the Israeli financial, banking and aviation authorities were coordinating on the issue.

“Israel will not be a way to bypass the sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western countries on Russia,” Lapid said in a statement during a visit to Slovakia, which borders Ukraine.

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A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that a plane used by Russian billionaire Abramovich flew on Sunday at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, confirming reports in Israeli media.

The Foreign Ministry statement did not mention the plane. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the plane.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm whether Abramovich, who holds dual Israeli and Portuguese citizenships, was on the ship. The source said the plane was scheduled to leave Israel later on Monday.

The plane’s arrival marked the fine line Israel is walking in its relations with Russia – the power broker in neighboring Syria.

The billionaire, owner of British soccer club Chelsea, was among seven oligarchs added to Britain’s sanctions list on Thursday in a bid to impeach Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine. Read more

Abramovich denied having close ties with Putin.

A source at the British Ministry of Transport said on Friday that Britain was searching for helicopters and planes belonging to the sanctioned oligarch. Read more

call for sanctions

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 on Friday, Victoria Nuland, the US deputy secretary of state for political affairs, said Washington was asking Israel to join the financial and export sanctions against Russia.

Lapid did not directly mention whether Israel was considering its sanctions. But he said the State Department is “coordinating the issue with partners including the Bank of Israel, the Finance Ministry, the Economy Ministry, the Airports Authority, the Energy Ministry, and others.”

In response to a request for more details, the Bank of Israel said in a statement to Reuters that it “is constantly monitoring developments in the payment systems, markets and the financial system.”

Any Israeli sanctions could complicate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s efforts to mediate the Russia-Ukraine crisis. He held talks in Moscow with Putin on March 5 and spoke several times by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“There is no justification for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and there is absolutely no justification for attacks on the civilian population,” said Lapid, who was one of the most outspoken members of the government in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In another effort to prevent Russian oligarchs from evading foreign sanctions, this month Israel restricted the time private planes can park to no more than 24 hours.

With strong public sympathy for Ukraine in Israel, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem said Thursday it had suspended the strategic partnership with Abramovich, after Britain moved against him.

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Covering Ma’an Lobel in Jerusalem. Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller in Bratislava. Stephen Sher of Modi’in. Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Frank Jack Daniel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.