The billionaire owner of the English Premier League side became the highest profile oligarch yet sanctioned by any Western country, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine late last month.
Abramovich, 55, was one of seven more oligarchs slapped with new British restrictions over the invasion, including his former business partner Oleg Deripaska.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of delaying action against wealthy Russians, and turning a blind eye to Russian money that has coursed through London since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He called the sanctions “the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people” while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said they showed that “oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy and society”.
“With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression. The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame,” she added.
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, turning the perennial also-rans into serial winners with unlimited transfer funds after he became rich on the chaotic privatisation of state assets in 1990s Russia.
He has denied claims that he bought the London club on President Vladimir Putin’s orders, to expand Russia’s influence abroad in the early 2000s.
Others sanctioned yesterday were Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin, whom the British government described as Putin’s “right-hand man”, and the head of energy giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller.
Also on the list were VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Transneft president Nikolai Tokarev and Bank Rossiya chairman Dmitri Lebedev.
London said the seven have a collective net worth of about £15 billion (B651bn) and described them all as part of Putin’s inner circle.
The government gave Chelsea a special licence to continue playing football, but with restrictions on how much it can spend that will severely hamper the team’s operations in England and Europe.
The club’s management said the restrictions were too harsh and that it wanted talks with the government “for the licence to be amended”.
The Premier League said it would “work with the club and the government to ensure the season will proceed as planned and in line with the government’s intention”.
Commercial fallout from the sanctions became apparent as mobile phone firm Three announced it was suspending its sponsorship deal with Chelsea, and demanded its logo be removed from players’ shirts.
Speculation has swirled since Russia’s invasion about whether Abramovich would be included in any UK sanctions.
He announced last week he was selling Chelsea.
A number of prospective buyers have come forward, including wealthy tycoons in the United States, Switzerland and Turkey.
But a UK sanctions official told reporters the government’s licence “does not allow for the sale of the club” unless the Treasury approves another licence to do so.
Johnson’s spokesman said the government was “open” to a sale if an application was received and granted, but said “under no circumstance” should Abramovich profit from it.
Shares in Russian steel giant Evraz, of which Abramovich is the major shareholder, plunged almost 12% on the London Stock Exchange yesterday morning until trading in the company was suspended.
Yachts and planes
Abramovich’s property holdings include a 15-bedroom mansion in London’s exclusive Kensington area. He also owns one of the world’s largest yachts, the 533-foot (162-metre) Eclipse.
He is also subject to transport sanctions, which have banned Russian aircraft from flying or landing in the UK and give the government powers to remove planes belonging to designated Russian individuals and entities.
Russian ships have been banned from UK ports.
Abramovich changed the face and profile of English football when he took over Chelsea, turning the club into a European powerhouse and ushering in the era of mass money in the domestic game.
Chelsea have won 19 major trophies in the Abramovich era, including their first two Champions League crowns and five Premier League titles.