MPs are calling for Boris Johnson to impose tougher sanctions on Russia after the prime minister announced the UK’s “first barrage” of strikes in response to the Ukraine crisis.
Johnson told the Commons today (February 22) that the UK is imposing an asset freeze and travel ban on three Russian oligarchs, and sanctions on five Russian banks in response to Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.
However, MPs from all sides are unimpressed with the measures. Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who has investigated Russian money in London, said she has received legal advice that there are “serious flaws” in the sanctions legislation. “That means that kleptocrats who have stolen from the Russian people and support Putin would not be caught.”
Hodge asked why dozens of other Russians have not be sanctioned while former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told Johnson to “hit them with sanctions hard, and hit them now”, adding: “They need to feel the pain.”
The financial markets have been similarly underwhelmed by the UK’s response that has been described by Kremlin critic Bill Browder as “pretty tepid”.
The price of gas in the UK and Europe surged a further 10% today following Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz statement that the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline will not be certified.
UK sanctions on Russia ‘not the full package’, yet
Outlining the sanctions on three Russian oligarchs and five banks, Johnson told the Commons, “this is the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do,” adding: “Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen and the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here.”
The banks’ UK assets will be frozen and Johnson said he will not hesitate to introduce further measures.
The three individuals facing sanctions are: Gennady Timchenko, Igor Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg. The five banks are: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
31 Russian companies are listed on the London stock exchange (LSE). Their combined market value is £468 billion, according to S&P Global. Russian energy and mining companies listed in London paid the Kremlin £39 billion in taxes in 2020, according to Guardian analysis. The World Bank states Russia spent £41.7 billion on its military – 11.4% of government spending – in 2019.
The Guardian says the sanctions announced today “mark a turning of a tide after five years of prevaricating over the role of Russian ‘dirty money’ in the UK, but still leaves many areas untouched“.
The PM has not imposed the complete package of sanctions prepared against Russia and the “UK’s larger package, being coordinated with Washington and the EU, will be implemented if a full-scale invasion [of Ukraine] takes place.”
‘Sanctions don’t work’, says Tugendhat
Tom Tugendhat MP, the Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee, has called for far tougher measures, starting with a front page expose of Putin’s wealth and hidden assets.
Tugendhat told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the five Russian banks sanctioned “are not the biggest banks” and continued: “I don’t know why VTB [which announced record profits today] wasn’t identified. I don’t know why various other individuals weren’t identified. I’d like to see this go much further much faster.
“As my former boss, the chief of the defence staff General Lord Richards put it: ‘Clout, don’t dribble’. You allow people to think that you’re not serious if you don’t respond seriously quickly and it can lead to worse confusion in the future.”
Commenting on the fact the people sanctioned have been on a US sanction list since 2018, Tugendhat said: “Exactly. Sanctions don’t work.”
He added: “Sanctions only work if you force the rulers to sit up and take notice and think again about their actions… These people have been sanctioned for four years, I’m not quite sure why that would make anybody sit up and take notice.”
Tugendhat wants Putin’s wealth to be identified and “splashed over every newspaper in the world” and for “the secret accounts that he has got hidden in Switzerland and various other jurisdictions” to be exposed and published.
Truss tells ‘all Brits to leave Ukraine now’
Foreign secretary Liz Truss has urged all British citizens to leave Ukraine and pledged extra support to help people leave the country.
“The safety and security of British nationals in Ukraine is our top priority,” tweeted Truss. “All Brits should leave now via commercial routes while they are still available.
“We are bolstering our teams in the region to support British people as they leave and once they have crossed the border.”
Extra consular support in Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Moldova will be provided by “rapid deployment teams”, the PM’s official spokesman has confirmed.
Truss today met with Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, and tweeted the US and UK “are united in standing by Ukraine”.
Truss said she and Pelosi “agreed Putin’s actions overnight are a flagrant breach of international law”, and continued: “We are committed to their sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will impose severe costs on Russia.”
Pelosi also held a bilateral meeting with the prime minister and had a tour of parliament on her visit to the UK as part of a Congressional delegation.