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Holocaust memorial suspends ties with Chelsea's Abramovich

Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich celebrates English Premier League title win in May 2017
— Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial announced Thursday it has suspended ties with Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of Chelsea FC and major donor facing sanctions worldwide following the invasion of Ukraine.

"In light of recent developments, Yad Vashem has decided to suspend the strategic partnership with Mr. Roman Abramovich," spokesman Simmy Allen said in a statement.

Last month, Yad Vashem announced "a new long-term strategic partnership" with Abramovich that would expand Holocaust research and remembrance. Allen said the Russian was donating "an eight-figure sum", making Abramovich the memorial's second-largest donor.

He said the partnership was now suspended.

The museum faced scrutiny after a report in The Washington Post that it had joined the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel, David Lau, and Sheba Medical Centre director general Yitshak Kreiss in urging the US not to sanction Abramovich.

Allen did not confirm the mogul was mentioned, but told AFP that Yad Vashem had signed a letter to the US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, "in order to increase US awareness of the potentially negative consequences of possible economic sanctions in the future upon important causes shared by the US and its ally Israel".

Abramovich, 55, is facing rising sanctions over his perceived close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Thursday, the UK froze his assets and banned him from travel over Russia's Ukraine invasion launched on February 24.

Chelsea Football Club later said they were pressing for talks with the British government "seeking permission for the licence to be amended in order to allow the club to operate as normal as possible".

Abramovich had announced last week that he was selling the English Premier League club.