CHELSEA owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly in Belarus to assist in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
The bizarre twist comes just days after he gave up control of the London club amid questions over his links to tyrant Vladimir Putin.
The Russian-Israeli billionaire has come under pressure to speak out following the invasion of Ukraine.
There have been calls in Parliament for him to face sanctions as a major oligarch “with links to the Russian state”.
It has been said that Abramovich – who has a net worth of around £10billion – is already in Belarus to assist with the talks, reports The Jerusalem Post.
A spokesman for the Chelsea owner said: “I can confirm that 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.
“Considering what is at stake, we would ask for your understanding as to why we have not commented on neither the situation as such nor his involvement.”
Mr Abramovich’s involvement followed a request from Ukrainian film producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
There were no further details about his role, although it was acknowledged his influence was “limited”.
“I can confirm that the Ukrainian side have been trying to find someone in Russia willing to help them in finding a peaceful resolution,” Mr Rodnyansky said.
“They are connected to Roman Abramovich through the Jewish community and reached out to him for help.
“Roman Abramovich has been trying to mobilize support for a peaceful resolution ever since.
“Although Roman Abramovich’s influence is limited, he is the only one who responded and taken it upon himself to try.
It comes as…
“If this will have an impact or not, I don’t know, but I am in contact with (Ukraine President Volodymyr) Zelensky’s staff myself, and know that they are grateful for his genuine efforts.”
Mr Abramovich stepped back from day-to-day running of Chelsea on Saturday night, handing stewardship to the west London club’s charitable foundation trustees.
In the Commons last week, Labour former minister Chris Bryant called for Mr Abramovich to be banned from owning the club.
He highlighted a leaked 2019 Home Office document which said that Mr Abramovich “remains of interest to HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices”.
It came as high level peace talks are ongoing between Moscow and Kyiv on Belarusian-Ukrainian border.
Ukraine continues to mount a firm resistance to the invading Russians as Vladimir Putin’s hopes for a rapid victory have been crushed.
Instead the tyrant has been forced to the negotiating table for the first time – but it is unclear how successful such talks will be.
It came as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his country faces a “crucial” 24 hours in a call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
And UK defence secretary Ben Wallace warned that the stalled invasion could force Russia to unleash “ruthless, indiscriminate” bombing of Ukraine.
His warning came after Putin’s ally Belarus accused the West of pushing Russia to the brink of World War 3 as Moscow put its nuclear forces on “high alert”.
Ukraine holds out no great hope after agreeing to talks with Russia in Belarus – the launchpad for attacks on Kyiv.
“But let them try,” said Zelenskyy.
Before dawn, explosions were heard in the capital and also in the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv.
Powerful blasts were also reportedly heard in the cities of Cherkasy and Chernihiv as the brutal barrage continues.
Ukraine’s army says it fought off several attempts by Russian forces to storm the outskirts of Kyiv overnight with the capital also hit by three missile strikes.
Russia has so far fired more than 350 missiles at Ukraine, with many hitting civilians.
Moscow has failed to win full control of Ukraine’s airspace, despite advances across the country.
US officials say they believe the invasion has been more difficult, and slower, than the Kremlin envisioned – sparking concern Putin could start to use even more vicious weapons.
“It appears that they are adopting a siege mentality, which any student of military tactics and strategy will tell you, when you adopt siege tactics, it increases the likelihood of collateral damage,” a US official said.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said that Russia’s forces are “strung out” and “behind schedule” – but downplayed the nuclear threat from Russia.
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Putin “convinced himself that all these people would somehow welcome them with Russian flags and thank them for being great liberators”, he said.
But instead the Ukrainian resistance had made these plans “go awry” – but he warned the offensive is likely to become “more violent”.
Mr Wallace said: “So we have to brace ourselves for what may come next, which could be ruthless, indiscriminate bombing of cities and propelling forward of soldiers and high casualty levels, and that’s going to be horrific.”
It is estimated nearly 400,00 civilians, mainly women and children, have now fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries.
EU commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcic said: “We are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years.”
Russia faces a day of economic pain after the imposition of crushing new sanctions.
Brutal new measures rolled out over the weekend designed to cut off Russia could trigger a run on the banks as the rouble is now in “free fall”.
Meanwhile, Putin’s closest ally, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko – who is known as Europe’s Last Dictator, accused the West of “pushing Russia into World War 3”.
Ahead of the United Nations holding a rare emergency meeting of its General Assembly over the crisis, the Prime Minister also told Ukraine the UK would do all it could to send more arms.
Mr Johnson said Mr Putin’s nuclear order appeared to be an attempt to divert from the fact that his efforts to re-make the post-Cold War order in Europe were failing.
President Putin sent shock waves through Western capitals with his instruction on Sunday to his top military leaders to put the strategic nuclear deterrent on a “special regime of combat duty”.
The US said it was “completely unacceptable” while a senior US defence official was quoted as warning the Russian leader had made any “miscalculation… much, much more dangerous”.
Lukashenko insisted sanctions being handed down by countries including the UK and US are propelling Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Now there is a lot of talk against the banking sector, gas, oil, SWIFT,” he said.
“It’s worse than war. This is pushing Russia into a Third World War.
“We need to be restrained here so as not to get into trouble. Because nuclear war is the end of everything.”
Earlier, Lukashenko had warned the war in Ukraine will “become a meat grinder” if it continues.
“The conflict in Ukraine is the thin edge of the wedge. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. If it continues like this, the worst will happen,” he said.
“He (Zelenskyy) will not be hidden in any American or some other bunker. That’s why the war should be ended today.
“I wouldn’t even call it the war. This is a conflict. The war will last for one-two days, but there will be a meat grinder in three days.”
Diplomats from Kyiv and Moscow are set to meet “without preconditions” near the Pripyat River on the Belarusian border as Putin’s invasion rumbles on for the fourth day.
President Zelenskyy’s office said Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko “has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the talks were called following a conversation between Zelenskyy and Lukashenko after it was feared Belarus was preparing its troops to join Moscow’s invasion.
In a televised address, he said: “We were as close as ever to the entry of Belarus armed forces into the war. This is why Presiden Zelensky and President Lukashenko spoke today.
“We have to defend our northern flank and we have to minimise the threats coming from there.
“So we agreed to send a delegation to the location on the Ukranian-Belarus border and we go to there to listen to what Russia has to say.”
He said diplomats will meet “without preliminary agreement” on what the outcome of the talks can be.
“We are going there to say what we think of this war and Russia’s actions,” Kuleba added.
“I think the fact Russia wants to talk without any pre-conditions or any ultimatums, without any demands addressed to Ukraine, is already a victory for Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy had previously refused to negotiate in Belarus, but according to Kuleba, Belarus’ president told him there would be “no such move” as long as the planned talks go ahead.
But Zelenskyy admitted he’s not confident of a positive resolution from the talks, saying: “I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try, so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war.”
It comes after Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert just after warning the West “may face the greatest consequences in history”.
The Russian tyrant is said to be “furious” he’s not been able to subdue Ukraine and lashed out at NATO for its “unfriendly measures” he says forced him into the chilling nuclear gamble.
The move means Putin has ordered the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear warheads prepared for launched readiness – raising the terrifying possibility the crisis and a miscalculation could spill over into nuclear war.
In an address on state TV, Putin claimed aggressive statements by NATO leaders and economic sanctions against Moscow have forced his hand.
He said “not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures” such as “illegal sanctions” but “top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country”.
Putin said he has now ordered his military command to put Russia’s deterrence forces – a reference to units which include nuclear arms – on high alert.
“I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has tonight described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a disastrous, misbegotten venture by President Putin” which “can lead to no good” for Russia.
The PM told the Ukrainian Cathedral of the Holy Family that he holds “no hostility” to the Russian people but there is “no possible excuse” for its leadership to choose to invade Ukraine.
He said: “I’m going to stress that there is no hostility in my heart towards the Russian people, none whatever – quite the reverse.
“My heart aches for the Russian parents who are already losing their children in this vicious and appalling war – just as it aches for the civilians and the people of Ukraine.
“But when it comes to the Russian leadership who chose this path of violence, and I stress chose this path of violence and aggression, there can be no possible excuse.
“And never in all my study or memory of politics and international affairs have I seen so clear a distinction between right and wrong, between good and evil, between light and dark. And that is the real reason why is Ukraine is our neighbour today.”
Mr Johnson said the UK will be “very generous” over Ukrainian refugees coming to Britain, with a system that lets people enter the country when they are in fear of persecution, to reunite with family or “other purposes”.
He added that Putin putting Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert was “a distraction from the reality of what’s going on in Ukraine” and praised Ukrainians for “fighting back perhaps with more effect, with more resistance, than the Kremlin had bargained for”.
Meanwhile, the UK is to provide a further £40million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, the Government has announced.
On the fourth day of the invasion, hero Ukrainian troops and civilians are scrambling to beat off the Russian invaders.
It comes after a day of fighting during which Russian troops failed to capture the capital.
Shells rained down across Ukraine following the invasion – as the battle for the capital, Kyiv, stretched into a fourth day.
The city awoke to more air raid sirens after missile attacks that turned the sky orange during what Zelenskyy said was a “brutal” night.
And Ukrainian forces are battling the Russian invaders on the streets of Kharkiv and remain in “full control”, local commanders say.
In a statement on Sunday, Ukraine’s armed forces said it had suffered a “difficult time” as “occupiers continue shelling in almost all directions”.
A statement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said: “The Air Force confronts the aggressor both in the sky and on the ground.”
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/17793505/roman-abramovich-ukraine-peace-talks-russia/ Roman Abramovich assisting in Ukraine peace talks days after giving up control of Chelsea over Putin’s invasion