Kremlin says Abramovich 'has right' to Israeli citizenship

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has the right to Israeli citizenship, the Kremlin said Tuesday, after the Chelsea football club-owner reportedly travelled to Israel and became a citizen after delays to his British visa application.

"The Kremlin doesn't think anything about this," presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in response to a question on the reported move by Abramovich, a former regional governor seen as being on good terms with President Vladimir Putin.

"An entrepreneur receives Israeli citizenship. So what? It's his right," Peskov said of Abramovich, who is Jewish.

Abramovich, who was reportedly in Russia in recent days, flew into Tel Aviv on a private jet and received an Israeli identity card, local Channel 10 television reported.

Spokesmen for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office contacted by AFP did not confirm or deny the report. Abramovich's spokesman John Mann refused to comment, saying it was a personal matter.

Israel's Law of Return gives every Jew, or child or grandchild of a Jew, the right to Israeli citizenship on demand.

Sources in Abramovich's entourage told Russian and international media earlier this month that Abramovich's British visa had run out and his application for a new one was taking longer than usual.

Abramovich, 51, has a fortune estimated at 9.3 billion pounds ($12.5 billion) by the Sunday Times. He bought Chelsea football club in 2003.

The reports of his visa problems came as British MPs urged the government to clamp down on corrupt Russian money flowing through London. They called for global action to tighten loopholes in existing sanctions targeting oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich served as governor of Russia's remote Chukotka from 2000 to 2008 and pumped in millions of dollars to develop the remote region. Putin repeatedly urged Abramovich to stay on as governor while he was already living between Russia and Britain.

He sold his majority stake in oil major Sibneft to state-controlled Gazprom in 2005 for 13 billion dollars.