The British government has escalated its efforts to cut the Russian economy off from outside resources by barring Moscow’s access to the UK’s management, consulting, accounting and PR services.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss unveiled a further round of sanctions on Wednesday, this time on Russian businesses that rely on UK companies.
The announcement brings the number of Russian entities and people linked to President Vladimir Putin to be sanctioned by the UK since the invasion of Ukraine to more than 1,600. Russia last week imposed sanctions on 287 British MPs.
As the Russian war in Ukraine approaches the 10-week mark, No 10 Downing Street announced more sanctions to “hit those behind Putin’s vicious disinformation campaign” including state-controlled media outlets RT and Sputnik.
The UK government says Russia is “heavily reliant” on service companies in western countries, and cutting these off would account for 10 per cent of Russian imports in the sectors affected.
“Doing business with Putin’s regime is morally bankrupt and helps fund a war machine that is causing untold suffering across Ukraine,” Ms Truss said. “Cutting Russia’s access to British services will put more pressure on the Kremlin and ultimately help ensure Putin fails in Ukraine.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said UK services were “extraordinarily valuable” to many nations and freezing Moscow out of the picture increases “economic pressure on the Kremlin to change course”.
Ms Truss revealed 63 new sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes for people linked to Russian broadcasters and newspapers. They also include sanctions against mainstream media organisations.
Those who appear on the latest list include employees of Channel One, a major state-owned television channel in Russia, which had described the invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation”.
The government has also imposed sanctions on war correspondents embedded with Russian forces in Ukraine, including: Evgeny Poddubny, who works for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company; Alexander Kots, reporting for Russian daily tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda; and Dmitry Steshin, a journalist and special correspondent for the same newspaper.
Organisations including All Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting will also face sanctions.
Other media companies sanctioned include: InfoRos, a news agency spreading “destabilising disinformation about Ukraine”; SouthFront, a disinformation website; and the Strategic Culture Foundation, an online journal spreading disinformation about the invasion.
New legislation will, meanwhile, require social media companies to take action to block content from what the UK government says are two of Russia’s major sources of disinformation, RT and Sputnik.
"For too long RT and Sputnik have churned out dangerous nonsense dressed up as serious news to justify Putin’s invasion of Ukraine," said Chris Philp, the UK’s tech and digital economy minister.
“These outlets have already been booted off the airwaves in Britain and we've barred anyone from doing business with them. Now we’ve moved to pull the plug on their websites, social media accounts and apps to further stop the spread of their lies."
Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace on Wednesday visited Finland to watch UK troops take part in a joint military exercise with their Finnish counterparts.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Antti Kaikkonen, Finland’s Defence Minister, he stressed the need for co-operation as Helsinki considers a bid for Nato membership.
Mr Kaikkonen said Moscow’s assault on Ukraine had “changed the attitudes of Finnish people and also the decision-makers here” when it came to potentially joining the transatlantic military alliance.
He said the Finnish Parliament was debating the issue, with the government “pretty close” to reaching a conclusion, which is expected in the coming weeks.
The Finnish defence minister acknowledged Russia’s opposition to any Nato expansions.
“Russia has said on the one hand it is Finland’s own decision [to join Nato], but on the other hand has also said that there would be some kind of reaction,” he told reporters. “Well, that is something which will be seen in the future if we decided to apply for the membership in Nato.”
Mr Wallace reiterated his Finnish counterpart’s comments on how quick the accession process may go if Finland wishes to join Nato, saying: “It’s really about the 30 [Nato members] and the speed of ratification”.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last week said if Finland and Sweden wanted to join the alliance, the accession process could “go very quickly”.
Sweden is also considering whether to request membership of Nato.