Britain imposes sanctions on Putin's ex-wife and family

UK Foreign Office says it is targeting 'the shady network' funding the Russian president's 'lavish lifestyle'

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his then wife Lyudmila Putina arrive at the opening dinner of the G8 summit in 2007. Getty Images

The UK imposed sanctions on Russian leader Vladimir Putin's financial network on Friday — including his ex-wife and cousins — to “tighten the vice on the president and his inner circle”.

They have been added to the ever-growing UK sanctions list, as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss looks to target the “shady network propping” up the leader.

Britain has now placed sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals and 100 entities — including oligarchs worth £117 billion ($142.6bn).

The Foreign Office said the announcement of further measures would see members of Mr Putin’s close and inner circle hit, as Britain continues to seek new ways of punishing Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Putin’s official assets are modest, according to the foreign office, with his lifestyle “funded by a cabal of family, friends and elites”.

Russian former gymnast Alina Kabaeva, pictured in 2008. Rumoured to be Mr Putin's partner, she in subject to a UK travel ban and asset freeze. AFP

Ms Truss said: “We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Mr Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle.

“We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Mr Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails.”

Official records list the Kremlin leader’s assets as being modest, including a small flat in St Petersburg, two Soviet-era cars from the 1950s, a trailer and a small garage.

But UK aides said that in reality Mr Putin, 69, relies on his “wallet” of family, childhood friends and a hand-picked set of elites, who have benefited from his rule and in turn support his lifestyle.

The reward for such people is influence over the affairs of the Russian state that goes far beyond their formal positions, the foreign office said.

Despite officially owning few assets, Mr Putin is said have a lavish lifestyle.

The UK points to reports exposing links to a £566 million yacht and a $1 billion “Putin palace” — officially owned by close associate Arkady Rotenberg, who was placed under UK sanctions in December 2020.

Those newly placed on the sanctions list include the former wife of Mr Putin, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya.

Since her divorce from the president in 2014, Ms Ocheretnaya has benefited from “preferential business relationships with state-owned entities”, officials said.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle." EPA

Another high-profile person to be listed is Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast.

She has risen to become chair of the board of the National Media Group, reportedly the largest private Russian media company.

Ms Kabaeva is reported to be Mr Putin's partner, and previously sat as a deputy in the Duma — Russia's parliament — for Mr Putin’s United Russia party.

After the invasion, the National Media Group website was updated to remove her name, along with any reference to the board of directors. Ms Kabaeva is subject to a travel ban and asset freeze.

Igor Putin, a first cousin of the leader and director of Pechenga International Sea Port, has also been targeted, along with Mikhail Putin, another relative, who is deputy chairman of the management board of energy giant Gazprom.

Roman Putin, a first cousin once removed, has been publicly open about his relation to the president and emphasises how this family connection enabled his company, Putin Consulting, to help foreign investors in Russia, said the foreign office.

Mr Putin has also routinely placed his confidants and loyal supporters into strategic positions, extending his personal reach into all corners of the Russian economy. Others placed under sanctions include:

· Alexander Plekhov, a close friend of Mr Putin. He has benefited from his relationship with Mr Putin and his company Vital Development Corporation has benefited from significant state patronage.

· Mikhail Klishin, an executive in Bank Rossiya, and a member of the board of directors at Sogaz insurance company.

· Vladimir Kolbin, the son of Mr Putin's childhood friend and alleged business associate, Peter Kolbin. Vladimir Kolbin has supported the government as general director of Gelendzhik Seaport.

· Yuri Shamalov, son of Nikolai Shamalov, who was placed under sanctions by the UK in 2014, and brother of Mr Putin's former son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, placed under sanctions by the UK in February 2022. Yuri Shamalov has risen rapidly to become president of Gazfond, the pension fund of Gazprom and member of the board of directors of Gazprombank.

· Viktor Khmarin is a Russian lawyer and businessman, who is a friend and relative through marriage of Mr Putin. He has owned a number of businesses including NefteProduktServis, which operated in the Russian energy sector.

Updated: May 13, 2022, 12:43 PM