Roman Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea Football Club, “played a key part” in securing the release of five British prisoners of the war in Ukraine.
The Russian, 55, welcomed John Harding, Shaun Pinner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill onto a jet flying them from Russia to Saudi Arabia.
He gave each of the men iPhones so that they could call their families and even talked football with the men while they ate steaks on the flight to Riyadh.
Mr Harding, a British Army veteran, said he had not recognised the Russian billionaire on the plane until Mr Pinner, a West Ham fan, pointed him out.
Mr Harding told The Sun: “Shaun said, ‘You really look like Roman Abramovich’ and he replied, ‘That’s because I am him, sir’. He couldn’t believe it.
“I joked that Shaun is a West Ham fan and we all laughed.”