U.K. Visa for Roman Abramovich, Russian Billionaire, Is Delayed

With a net worth estimated at more than $10 billion, hundreds of millions of which have been invested in Britain, Mr. Abramovich should have no trouble clearing that hurdle. He owns a huge house in London that is worth more than $150 million and is equipped with a subterranean swimming pool.

In April, the United States Treasury announced that it was imposing sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, including several with extensive ties to Britain like Oleg Deripaska, who in November listed his aluminum and energy conglomerate, EN+, on the London stock exchange. But Mr. Abramovich was not among those targeted by the United States.

If Mr. Abramovich’s British visa delay turns out to be more than a bureaucratic hiccup, it could be a sign that the British government, too, is moving against Russian oligarchs and wants to curb what has been called “Londongrad,” a large community of Russians, both fans and foes of Mr. Putin, who have sought shelter in the British capital for their money and families.

U.K. Visa for Roman Abramovich, Russian Billionaire, Is Delayed
U.K. Visa for Roman Abramovich, Russian Billionaire, Is Delayed

Perhaps anticipating trouble in Britain, Mr. Abramovich, according to Swiss news media reports in February, applied for residency in Switzerland but withdrew his application last year after a cool response from the federal authorities in Bern.

Mr. Abramovich, in contrast to some other Russian tycoons, has avoided dabbling publicly in British politics. But his ownership of Chelsea has made him a staple of celebrity and sports coverage in tabloid and serious British newspapers, and he is by far the best-known Russian oligarch in Britain. Chelsea fans hail him as a hero because his hefty investment in buying top-class players has turned the team into a soccer powerhouse.

He has also won good will by donating more than $300 million to a British charity that provides holidays abroad for children with serious illnesses and by hosting lavish, A-list parties on his yacht, the world’s second biggest, and at his mansion in the British Virgin Islands.

Russians who have fallen out with the Kremlin, and British analysts who take a dim view of Mr. Putin, view him as a Kremlin lackey. His businesses in Russia, which include oil and other interests, have escaped unscathed under Mr. Putin while those of other tycoons critical of the Kremlin, like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky, have been ransacked by the state.

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