Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy advised U.S. President Joe Biden not to carry out punishing sanctions against Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich, who may act as a go-between in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
The U.S. sanctions, drafted earlier this month, were expected to be released along with those from the UK and European Union, according to the report.
The Kremlin on Thursday said sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich played an early role in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, but the process was now in the hands of the two sides' negotiating teams.
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"He did take part at the initial stage," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "Now the negotiations are between the two teams, the Russians and Ukrainians."
Biden, who flew to Brussels on Wednesday for meetings with European and G7 counterparts, reportedly discussed a range of sanctions with Zelenskyy, in addition to those planned for Abramovich.
Abramovich, who owns Premier League club Chelsea, accepted a Ukrainian request to help negotiate an end to the conflict last month, according to his spokeswoman.
"I can confirm Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since," a spokeswoman said.
"Considering what is at stake, we would ask for understanding as to why we have not commented on either the situation as such or his involvement."
Both the UK and the EU sanctioned Abramovich earlier this month over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, freezing his assets in their jurisdictions.
Abramovich, who is Jewish and has Israeli citizenship, was among a class of Russian businessmen who found their fortunes during the chaotic 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union and the wave of privatization that followed.
A commodity trader who thrived in the post-Soviet disorder of the 1990s under then-President Boris Yeltsin, Abramovich acquired stakes in the Sibneft oil company, Rusal aluminium producer and Aeroflot airline that were later sold.
He later served as governor of the remote Arctic region of Chukotka in Russia's Far East under Putin, who Abramovich has kept a close relationship with for decades.