In an interview with The Sun, John Harding said Mr Abramovich had introduced himself to Shaun Pinner, and Mr Harding had spoken to Mr Abramovich’s assistant, who said the Russian had played a “significant role” in their release.
Mr. Harding along with Sh. Pinner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill were released on Wednesday and landed in the UK in the early hours of Thursday morning.
On March 2, already after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, R. Abramovich announced that he would sell Chelsea. On March 10, the UK government imposed sanctions on the 55-year-old Abramovich, which Downing Street said was evidence of his ties to Vladimir Putin.
“Shaun had a long chat with him about football and I had a chat with his assistant,” Mr Harding told The Sun. – She said that Roman played an important role in getting us back. It’s unbelievable when you think he’s involved – and I wouldn’t have been able to tell who he was by looking at him.”
“He is highly respected by the Ukrainians, and now by us too – he has done a lot for us and we are extremely grateful to him. He’s a tough guy, a really great guy. He is a legend – we love him dearly and I am very grateful for his efforts,” he said.
Sh. Pinner’s family said he was in “good spirits” and was “looking forward to a steak and a glass of red wine” after his release.
In July, the court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic sentenced Sh. Pinner and A. Aslin on death row. They had both lived in Ukraine for many years and were serving in its regular forces when the full-scale war broke out.
It is believed that J. Harding, Sh. Pinner and A. Aslin served in the Georgian Legion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer unit led by Mamuka Mamulashvili.
“All those guys did everything they could to defend democracy and freedom,” Mamulashvilis told the PA news agency. “They served in the Georgian Legion around the same time… and they were great guys.” It was very important for us to get those guys out of captivity because I’ve been in captivity myself and I know what it’s like.”
UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, while in New York for the UN General Assembly, tweeted: “Very good news that British nationals held by Russian troops in eastern Ukraine have been returned safely, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.”
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