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UKRAINE

Swiss billionaire mulls buying Chelsea FC amid Russia turmoil

Hansjorg Wyss, one of Switzerland's richest men, said Wednesday he had been offered the chance to buy Chelsea, with the European football champions' Russian owner Roman Abramovich under growing scrutiny.

Chelsea's home ground at Stamford Bridge. By Vespa125125CFC at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Chelsea's home ground at Stamford Bridge. By Vespa125125CFC at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Wyss, 86, who founded the medical device manufacturing firm Synthes, told the Swiss newspaper Blick that he and three others had been sounded out on Tuesday.

But Wyss wants Abramovich to lower his asking price for the English Premier League side. Abramovich revealed Saturday that he plans to place his ownership of the Blues into the “stewardship and care” of the Chelsea Foundation’s trustees.

Abramovich has not been named on a growing British sanctions list targeting Russian banks, businesses and pro-Kremlin tycoons in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been pressed on why Abramovich has not been cited, given his familiarity with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

READ MORE: Switzerland to impose sanctions on Russia

“Abramovich is among Putin’s closest advisers and friends,” Wyss told Blick.

“Like all the other oligarchs, he is panicked. Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly. Along with three other people, I received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.

“I have to wait four or five days. Abramovich is asking too much right now. Chelsea owes him Ł2 billion ($2.7 billion, 2.4 billion euros). But Chelsea has no money. This means that those who buy Chelsea must compensate Abramovich.

“We do not yet know the exact sale price. I can very well imagine myself joining Chelsea with partners. First I have to look carefully at the conditions. “I certainly wouldn’t do such a thing alone. If I buy Chelsea, it will be with a consortium of six to seven investors.”

Silence at Stamford Bridge 

Contacted in London, Chelsea refused to comment, while a spokeswoman for Abramovich did not immediately respond. Chelsea defeated Brazil’s Palmeiras 2-1 in the Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi last month, meaning the Blues have now won every possible trophy since Abramovich bought the west London side in 2003.

Johnson was asked in Warsaw on Tuesday why Abramovich has not been personally sanctioned by Britain, as several UK lawmakers have demanded.

READ MORE: How Switzerland reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and how you can help

In response, Johnson did not mention the Chelsea owner, but said Britain would be “tightening the economic noose” further around the Russian regime.

In parliament on Tuesday, opposition Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant said Abramovich seemed “terrified of being sanctioned, which is why he’s already going to sell his home”. Wyss praised the West’s “excellent approach” in imposing sanctions on Russian interests.

“The fact that the Russian oligarchs are targeted by the Americans and Europeans is absolutely essential, because they may have an influence on Putin,” he told Blick.

Medical devices fortune 

Forbes magazine’s 2021 annual list of the world’s dollar billionaires put Wyss in 451st place, with a fortune of $6 billion. The Harvard Business School graduate was the chairman and president of Synthes, one of the world’s major manufacturers of instruments and implants to mend bone fractures.

In 2012, Synthes was bought by US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson.

READ MORE: How Europe reacted to Switzerland’s historic sanctions announcement

It now forms part of J&J’s DePuy division, with the acquisition creating one of the world’s largest orthopaedic and neurological businesses. Wyss is also a well-known philanthropist, with his charitable foundation worth over $2 billion.

In 2018, he pledged to donate $1 billion to conservation programmes. Stephen Taylor Heath, head of sports law at Manchester-based lawyers JMW Solicitors, said it was understood that Abramovich controls the corporate entities that own Chelsea rather than the club directly.

“Any would-be buyer would need to undertake due diligence which would establish the ownership structure and any issues with the club. And so a very quick immediate sale would be very difficult in practice,” he said.

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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