The British authorities have banned the fund to help victims of the war in Ukraine to use outside of Ukraine the money received from the sale of the Chelsea football club by Roman Abramovich. This was stated by the head of the fund, the former chief executive of Unicef UK Mike Penrose in an article for The Times.
Penrose recalled that all the proceeds Abramovich received from the sale of the club were transferred to their fund, which should redirect the money to the victims of the war in Ukraine and its consequences. The location of the victims was not specified. The British government agreed to these conditions.
A year later, the government told the fund that, due to an agreement with the European Union (EU), the money would only be transferred if the fund agreed to limit spending to the geographical borders of Ukraine. Any requests to send money to Ukrainians outside of Ukraine or families hosting victims in other countries, including the UK, will not be considered. The head of the fund noted that in this way it would not be possible to help refugees who had to leave Ukraine:
“As the recent unrest in Russia has shown, we must prepare for any scenario, including an increase in the outflow of refugees due to increased fighting. And in this scenario, the fund's assistance, under the terms of the government and the EU, would have to stop at the moment when the refugees leave Ukraine. Many of the victims receiving humanitarian assistance, mostly women and children, are following this path.”
According to Penrose, an indirect consequence of the war is a huge number of refugees in other countries. They already live in unstable conditions, experiencing great difficulties caused by interruptions in the export of essential goods. However, now, under the conditions of the British government, the fund will neither be able to alleviate these problems nor attract international experts to help Ukrainian organizations, including with education for displaced Ukrainian children. He called "almost shameless" the idea that some £2.35bn could not be spent on helping the most vulnerable group of people, wherever they are.
Separately, the head of the fund noted that the organization would not have been able to allocate funds to Russia or Belarus, to institutions associated with their governments or persons under sanctions. To regulate this issue, there are already sanctions against the Russian Federation.
In April 2023, the UK authorities delayed the transfer of $2.9 billion from Roman Abramovich to the fund to help victims of the war in Ukraine, the funds were frozen in the British account. As Bloomberg reported, after the sale of the club, Abramovich himself offered to create a charitable foundation and transfer all the proceeds from the deal to the victims of the war in Ukraine. Obstacles in sending material assistance arose due to the fact that Abramovich is under sanctions.
Sanctions against Abramovich were imposed by the UK and the EU in March 2022 due to his ties to the Russian government. Abramovich himself denied financial ties to the Kremlin and sued to have the restrictions lifted. The Ukrainian government has put Abramovich on its own sanctions list. In January, the WSJ reported that Abramovich continued to participate in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, but Ukrainian, US and European officials did not expect him to play a "key role" in these negotiations.