Britain vows thorough sanctions on Russian elite

UK announces ‘dense package’ of measures against banks, individuals and companies aimed at imposing ‘highest economic cost’ for Ukraine invasion

People look at a screen displaying the exchange rate at a currency exchange office in St Petersburg, Russia. AP
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Sanctioning oligarchs in Britain will be a methodical but thorough process with no legal escape, officials have said.

The UK is moving quickly in conjunction with the US and other allies to expand sanctions that would inhibit the further funding of Russia's invasion of Ukraine by hitting Moscow's $630 billion war chest, UK officials said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Plans are also being drawn up to stop all Russian banks from using the Swift financial system.

Outlining a “dense package” of 12 areas of current and future sanctions, the officials stated that the aim was to “impose the highest economic costs possible” on Russia for its attack on Ukraine.

Nine oligarchs so far have been hit with economic restrictions in Britain. This does not include Chelsea football owner Roman Abramovich, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s a lot of interest in this in the lists of individuals,” a British official said. “We go through building our cases, according to our legal framework, and are pushing those through the system as fast as we can … Essentially, we have a hit list that we are working through.”

Currently, Russian citizens can only make bank deposits totalling $50,000 but it now appears this figure could be reduced further to limit wealthy Russians’ ability “to offset the impact of sanctions by making large deposits into UK banks”.

“That will be the subject of further legislation to limit the size of the deposits that they can make in UK banks,” the official said.

Britain will also impose sanctions on all the Russian parliamentarians who voted for the Ukraine invasion and all members of the Russian National Security Council, the official confirmed.

“We're going after a Russia's political elite and tackling dirty money in the UK,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said in a separate media briefing.

“In the last week alone, we've sanctioned around 100 businesses or individuals and we're bringing forward new powers under the economic crime bill.

“We are effectively cutting off the West from Russia, cutting Russia off from the West.”

He added that the enforcement was having a “significant and immediate impact on the Russian economy” and that it would force Mr Putin “to change his plans, both by starving his war machine of funding and by making the Russian people see the impact of his disastrous decisions”.

Following new legislation pushed through Parliament, Britain will join the US and EU in limiting Russia’s use its “foreign reserves to fund the invasion”.

“That's by sanctioning the Russian Central Bank and Russian state financial institutions and the legal basis for us to do that has come into force,” an official said.

It was also confirmed that people attempting to bypass sanctions by using cryptocurrency were “committing an offence” and would be prosecuted.

“There's no free pass for crypto assets,” the official said.

The size and scale of global sanctions against Russia is “far greater” than anyone, including Mr Putin, had been expecting, with countries such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea becoming involved as well, the official added.

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Updated: March 02, 2022, 8:00 PM