UK's Liz Truss says sanctions against Russian billionaire 'send clear message'

Britain is looking at legal ways to seize oligarchs' luxury properties without compensation

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with businessman Alisher Usmanov during an awarding ceremony at the Kremlin in November 2018. Sputnik / Reuters

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The UK has imposed sanctions on Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who has had ties to Arsenal and Everton football clubs, to pile pressure on Vladimir Putin over his “barbarous” attacks on Ukraine.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also announced a travel ban and a full asset freeze against former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov on Thursday evening, taking the number of oligarchs penalised to 15.

But Roman Abramovich, who says he will sell Chelsea FC and give the proceeds to victims of the Ukraine war, is not expected to be a target of the latest sanctions after it was conceded it could take “weeks and months” to build legally sound cases.

But Ms Truss will establish an oligarch taskforce of ministers and officials from departments including the Home Office, the Treasury and the National Crime Agency to co-ordinate sanctions and build cases.

A government source told PA that it could take some time to build a legally watertight case against some Russian oligarchs.

“We’re working round the clock and going as quick as we can,” the source said.

Ms Truss is understood to have tripled the size of the sanctions team in recent months.

Mr Usmanov, whose commercial ties with Everton have been suspended, has already had his assets frozen as part of measures introduced by the EU.

On Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked why Mr Shuvalov, who served under Mr Putin as his deputy prime minister, had not had sanctions imposed.

Mr Shuvalov owns property in Westminster and is the chair of the management board of VEB, one of the sanctioned Russian banks.