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Abramovich's Passage To America

Mar 28, 2008 - Forbes.com

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abanovich

London - Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea soccer club be setting his sights on improving U.S.-Russian relations?

The driven Russian businessman, credited with turning around the fortunes of the English premier league team, is buying the world's biggest drill with the lofty ambition of creating an undersea tunnel between Alaska and Siberia, according to press reports on Friday.

Infrastruktura, Abramovich's Moscow-based firm is paying 100 million euros ($158.2 million) for a massive 62.3 foot wide drill which will be built by German engineering firm Herrenknecht, according to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph on Friday. A spokeswoman for the German company contacted by Forbes.com declined to comment on the reports.

This has prompted speculation within the Russian press that Abramovich is considering building an undersea tunnel across the 58 mile long Bering Strait, between Chukotka in Siberia and Alaska.

While the prospect of a tunnel between the former Cold War enemies may bring to mind a James Bond-esque plot, Abramovich's intentions are far more honorable, according to the reports: he aims to strengthen Russia's links and relations with the rest of the world.

According to Germany's Der Spiegel the drill will also be used to build infrastructure in Russia, including at the Black Sea resort of Sochi where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.

Apart from the challenge of getting the U.S. to agree to a link up with its former opponent, the icy waters of the strait will making building an underwater tunnel a far more challenging prospect than the 30 mile long Channel Tunnel that links Britain and France, which cost an estimated 4.7 billion ($9.5 billion) to build.

Still Abramovich, who though orphaned as a child and a college drop-out, went to make billions in the Russian oil industry, is the last person likely to be fazed by what may seem like a mission impossible. His efforts transformed Chelsea from a virtual non-hoper into one of the most successful soccer teams in the world. Since Abramovich took over, the team has won two of the English top league's annual trophies, having not won it even once in the previous fifty years.

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