U.S. wins authority to seize Abramovich's planes

STORY: A U.S. court has authorized the seizure of two luxury planes owned by Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.

Abramovich made headlines after putting Chelsea up for sale in March following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a sale that was complicated by UK sanctions on the billionaire and completed just last month.

On Monday, a federal judge in Manhattan issued warrants for his planes on the grounds that Abramovich violated U.S. export controls imposed after the Russian invasion.

The U.S.-made planes were flown to Moscow three times in March, without the license required by U.S. export restrictions.

But the U.S. government's likelihood of gaining control of the nearly $400-million aircraft remains uncertain.

A Department of Justice official says the planes aren't yet in U.S. custody, and that the warrants will likely dissuade companies from helping to move the aircraft.

U.S. authorities are trying to pressure business leaders close to Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Abramovich, who helped mediate talks between Moscow and Kyiv during the early days of the war, has also been sanctioned by the EU, but not the United States.

The U.S. Commerce Department may fine Abramovich nearly $1 million for the unlicensed flights, among other penalties.

A spokesperson for Abramovich did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has denied having close ties to Putin.

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