First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Britain warns Russia of sanctions on oligarchs if Ukrai...



Britain warns Russia of sanctions on oligarchs if Ukraine is invaded

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting with the members of Russian Tokyo 2020 Olympic team in The Kremlin in Moscow on September 11, 2021. Photographer: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images
By Reuters
31 Jan 2022 5

LONDON/MOSCOW, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Britain urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to "step back from the brink" over Ukraine, warning that any incursion would trigger sanctions against companies and people with close links to the Kremlin.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the threat of such measures, echoing moves outlined by a senior U.S. official following a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, would amount to an attack on Russian businesses.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the British warning “very disturbing”, and said such statements undermined Britain’s investment attractiveness and would backfire by hurting British companies.

“It’s not often you see or hear such direct threats to attack business,” Peskov said. “An attack by a given country on Russian business implies retaliatory measures, and these measures will be formulated based on our interests if necessary.”

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, London has become the pre-eminent global centre for a vast outflow of money from former Soviet republics.

Opponents of Putin have repeatedly called on the West to get tough How Western economic sanctions might target Russia on Russian money, though oligarchs and Russian officials continue to flaunt their wealth at Europe’s most luxurious destinations.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to travel to Ukraine and will also speak to Putin by telephone.

“What I will say to President Putin, as I’ve said before, is that I think we really all need to step back from the brink, and I think Russia needs to step back from the brink,” Johnson told reporters.


The United States, the European Union and Britain have warned Putin of tough sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine after gathering tens of thousands of troops near the border.

A senior Biden administration official said Washington and its allies have prepared a list of Russian elites in or near Putin’s inner circle for hitting with economic sanctions.

“The individuals we have identified are in or near the inner circles of the Kremlin and play a role in government decision making or are at a minimum complicit in the Kremlin’s destabilizing behavior,” the official said in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States has developed specific sanctions packages for both Russian elites who meet the criteria and their family members, and these efforts are being pursued in coordination with U.S. allies and partners, the official said.

Russia denies planning to attack Ukraine and is demanding security guarantees including a promise by NATO never to let Kyiv join the alliance.

The British government will introduce new legislation this week to broaden the scope of sanctions it can apply to Russia to try to deter aggression towards Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Sunday.

She said London should be able to target “any company of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia” and that “there would be nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs”.

Visiting Hungary, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it was important to defuse the crisis as a war would lead to greater instability, higher fuel prices and migrant flows.

Wallace expressed support for a planned trip to Russia on Tuesday by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for talks with Putin, adding: “We need to de-escalate this and stand up for the right for sovereignty of Ukraine.”

Britain has imposed sanctions on about 180 people and 48 entities since Russia annexed Crimea form Ukraine in 2014.

On the sanctions list are six people Britain says are close to Putin: businessmen Yuri Kovalchuk, Arkady Rotenberg and Nikolai Shamalov, former KGB officer Sergei Chemezov, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Alexander Bortnikov.

The sanctions allow Britain to freeze individual assets and ban individual from entering the United Kingdom.

By Guy Faulconbridge and Dmitry Antonov.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, William James and Dmitry Antonov; editing by Michael Holden and Timothy Heritage)


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 5

      • Let me clarify: I think Putin wants to avoid conflict. He wants the West to back down, or to make the first move (so that he remains politically palatable back home). Right now he wants the West to break and either attack or run away. Taking either course will give him what he wants.

  • I know sanctions can work, but what is the point here? I’m pretty sure Putin and his cronies anticipated as much. After all, sanctions were used against the annexation of Crimea and yet here we are again. And let’s not talk about that gas pipeline feeding Europe.

    I hate to say this, but I suspect Putin may have outplayed his opponents. All he wants now is to avoid a direct conflict – he needs the West to back down. We might be facing the possibility of another cold war-style escalation or another annexation of Ukranian territory.

    After all, the Russians originally took over the Ukraine by first starving many of its local people to death. They bullied their way into ‘owning’ Ukraine and they know no other way.

    • Putin definitely hadn’t outplayed the West. He comes across as a loud mouthed paranoid bully who had miscalculated big time. He is not the shrewd strategist he is made out to be. Think for a moment what happened after annexing Crimea in 2014. The west reinforced their presence in the Baltic states including Poland AND he also removed a significant pro Russian voting group( include eastern Ukraine) who could have influenced Ukrainian politics in his favour. Bullying Ukraine has galvanised NATO, which is the opposite of what he was trying to achieve. Remember how the USSR empire started crumbling- body bags of young Russians coming from Afghanistan!.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted