British PM Boris Johnson unveils ‘severe’ sanctions against Russia

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the West "will agree a massive package of economic sanctions". PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a package of “severe” sanctions against Russia on Thursday (Feb 24), targeting banks, members of President Vladimir Putin’s closest circle and the extremely wealthy who enjoy high-rolling London lifestyles.

Western nations are coordinating action to impose tough sanctions against Russia in response to its all-out invasion on neighbouring Ukraine, where Moscow staged missile strikes on cities and poured its troops into the country.

Speaking to parliament, Johnson said Putin would be condemned by the world and by history for his invasion, never able to cleanse the “blood of Ukraine” from his hands.

“This hideous and barbarous venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,” he told parliament when announcing the new sanctions.

“For our part today the UK is announcing the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen.”

After the West was criticised for earlier, weaker sanctions this week in response to Russia recognising two breakaway republics in Ukraine, Johnson said leaders had agreed to work together to “maximise the economic price” Putin will pay.

A government official said the coordinated sanctions by countries around the world would knock percentage points off the Russian economy in the next 12 to 18 months.

In the 10-point sanctions package, the British government said it would impose an asset freeze on some major Russian banks, including state-owned VTB, its second-biggest bank, and stop major Russian companies from raising finance in Britain.

VTB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago, London’s capital markets have been the favoured destination for Russian companies seeking to raise money outside Moscow.

Among the individuals targeted by the second wave of sanctions included Kirill Shamalov, Putin’s once son-in-law.

He is also the son of one of the Russian president’s long-time friends who is also a shareholder in Bank Rossiya, which US officials have described as the personal bank of the Russian elite.

Remote video URL

Pyotr Fradkov, chairman of Promsvyazbank, was also under sanctions. The finance ministry has accused Fradkov of working to transform the bank into one that serves the defence industry.

Britain will also ban Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot from landing in Britain, suspend dual export licences to Russia and ban exports of some high tech exports and parts of the extractive industry.

At home, officials said the sanctions were aimed at preventing wealthy Russians from using London as their playground, reducing their ability to store large amounts of cash in Britain’s banks.

“We will set up a new dedicated kleptocracy cell in the National Crime Agency to target sanctions-evasion and corrupt Russian assets hidden in the UK,” Johnson said.

“And that means oligarchs in London will have nowhere to hide.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.