London graduate linked to Sergey Lavrov among 65 hit by UK sanctions

The Instagram influencer Polina Kovaleva, linked to Russia's foreign minister, owns a £4.4m flat in Kensington

Polina Kovaleva, the daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's mistress Svetlana Polyakova, has been sanctioned by the UK government over her links to the Kremlin. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Walkabout Foundation)
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Britain has imposed sanctions on Roman Abramovich’s business partner and the London-based daughter of Sergey Lavrov’s mistress in its latest round of measures against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

A month after Moscow ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Boris Johnson’s government has widened the net of sanctions to clamp down on 65 Russian and Belarusian individuals and entities.

Eugene Markovich Shvidler, a businessman with an estimated net worth of £1.2 billion ($1.58bn), was among the cohort. The government said he has close business links to Chelsea FC owner Mr Abramovich, who was sanctioned this month for his links to the Kremlin.

The Wagner mercenary group, nicknamed “Putin’s private army”, which are believed to be hunting down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to assassinate him, is also on the list.

Polina Kovaleva, the daughter of the Russian foreign minister’s mistress Svetlana Polyakova, was another name included. The Imperial College London graduate, 26, is understood to own a £4.4 million mansion in Kensington, west London, which she bought without a mortgage in 2016.

Ms Kovaleva, who is a former employee of Gazprom, appears to lead a glamorous life, according to photos posted on her Instagram account.

“This sends a strong signal that those benefiting from association of those responsible for Russian aggression are in scope of our sanctions,” the UK government said.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said those on the new list would “pay the price” for their links to the Kremlin.

“These oligarchs, businesses and hired thugs are complicit in the murder of innocent civilians and it is right that they pay the price,” she said. “Putin should be under no illusions – we are united with our allies and will keep tightening the screw on the Russian economy to help ensure he fails in Ukraine. There will be no let-up”.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been married to Maria Lavrova since 1971 and they have one daughter and two grandchildren. He is understood to have been in a romantic relationship with Ms Polyakova since the early 2000s. She is an influential member of the Russian Foreign Ministry who regularly accompanies her Mr Lavrov, who was sanctioned by Britain in February along with President Putin, on diplomatic trips abroad.

Others sanctioned on Thursday include:

· Russian diamond mining company Alrosa

· Alfa-Bank, the largest private bank in Russia

· Oleg Tinkov, founder of Tinkoff Bank

· Herman Gref, chief executive of Sberbank, the country’s largest bank

· Oleg E Aksyutin, deputy chairman of the management board at Gazprom

· Didier Casimiro, first vice president of Russian state oil company Rosneft

· Zeljko Runje, another leading figure at Gazprom

· Galina Danilchenko, the woman Moscow installed as ‘mayor’ of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol after Russian troops abducted the elected mayor

The additional sanctions were unveiled as Nato leaders arrived in Brussels for a summit, where Britain’s prime minister will commit to a new package including 6,000 more missiles to help Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers fighting Russian forces.

Before the meeting, Mr Johnson urged allies to “step up” their efforts against the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. He will be joined by US President Joe Biden and other Nato leaders at the gathering a month after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Speaking to broadcasters after landing in Belgium’s capital, Mr Johnson said: “Vladimir Putin is plainly determined to double down on his path of violence and aggression.”

He described Mr Putin’s treatment of Ukrainians as “absolutely brutal” and said: “We’ve got to step up. We’ve got to increase our support.

“We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

President Zelenskyy has called for worldwide demonstrations to raise awareness of the grim one-month milestone. He will remotely address the Nato meeting, which is expected to sign off on the formation of four new battle groups in eastern Europe, adding thousands of troops.

Updated: March 24, 2022, 2:33 PM