What did Chris Bryant say about Roman Abramovich? Labour MP’s comments on Chelsea ownership

The billionaire is at the centre of intense parliamentary discussions.

Labour MP Chris Bryant has suggested that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich should “no longer be allowed to own a football club in this country” amid ongoing controversy regarding the billionaire’s association with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The British government initially placed limited sanctions on Russia earlier in the week after Putin’s decision to sign a decree recognising Donetsk and Luhansk as breakaway states in eastern Ukraine.

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Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich watches the FA cup fifth round football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in London on February 21st, 2016. Photo: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images.

Despite international outcry, Russia have since pressed ahead with a major invasion in the region, and there have been widespread reports of explosions and airstrikes near several Ukrainian cities.

In a pre-dawn televised statement, Putin confirmed the action and called for the Ukrainian military to lay down its arms.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held an address to the nation on Thursday afternoon in which he stated that the United Kingdom “cannot and will not just look away”, as well as vowing to impose fresh sanctions on Russia.

One of the key figures who has drawn attention in the debate surrounding further sanctions is Abramovich - a known associate of Putin.

Vladimir Putin has forced us to learn again that peace and freedom may ysometimes have to be defended (Picture: Alexey Nikolsky/AFP via Getty Images)

What is Roman Abramovich’s relationship to Vladimir Putin?

Abramovich’s relationship with Putin were established prior to the latter’s ascension to the role of President.

In 2012, a high court judge stated that the Chelsea owner had “privileged access” to the leader, as well as “very good relations”.

This is not the first time that Abramovich’s association with Putin and his role at Stamford Bridge have caused controversy, however.

Claims that Abramovich bought Chelsea on the orders of Putin led to the former receiving an apology from publisher Harper Collins after they were initially outlined in a book entitled “Putin’s People”.

The claims have since been removed.

A Ukrainian police officer stands in front of a damaged residential block hit by an early morning missile strike on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

What has been said about Abramovich possibly facing sanctions as the crisis in Russia and Ukraine escalates?

Abramovich has already made headlines this week after the Prime Minister was called into question in the House of Commons over his initial claims that the Chelsea owner was already facing sanctions as part of Britain’s initial response to the crisis in Ukraine.

After Mr Johnson stated that Abramovich was among those targeted by governmental action, Labour MPs Margaret Hodge and Chris Bryant challenged those claims, with the latter calling them “untrue” and demanding that the Prime Minister “correct the record”.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson later clarified the situation, suggesting the Prime Minister “misspoke” and stating that the record would be amended with parliamentary authorities.

In the initial round of measures, three allies of Putin and five Russian banks were sanctioned.

They were Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg, as well as Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank, and the Black Sea Bank.

Labour Party MP Chris Bryant in 2016. (Photo by Alex B. Huckle/Getty Images)

What did Chris Bryant say about Roman Abramovich on Thursday?

Speaking on Thursday, Bryant doubled down on his focus on Abramovich’s association with Putin.

The Labour MP told the House of Commons: “Following some of the reports in The Sun and other newspapers today, I’ve got hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office, which says, in relation to Mr Abramovich, as part of HMGs Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interests to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices.

“An example of this is Abramovich admitting in court proceedings that he paid for political influence.

“Therefore, HMG is focused on ensuring individuals linked to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal including immigration powers to prevent this.

“That’s nearly three years ago, and yet remarkably little has been done in relation.

“Surely, Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country?

“Surely, we should be looking at seizing some of his assets, including his £152 million home? And making sure that other people who’ve had tier one visas like this are not engaged in malign activity in the UK.”