- The UK sanctioned five Russian banks and three individuals on Tuesday.
- The move came after Putin ordered troops into eastern Ukraine.
- Boris Johnson told parliament that more measures could follow.
The UK sanctions announced on five Russian banks and three individuals on Tuesday, its first move to punish Russia for sending troops to eastern Ukraine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it the “first tranche, the first barrage” of sanctions over its aggression towards Ukraine.
The five banks are Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank. Three “very” high
individuals – Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg – were also named.
The sanctions were the first on Russia announced by a Western nation. The EU and US said they would announce measures later on Tuesday. It was unclear if the UK would also announce more measures later on Tuesday.
Germany also moved to ax the Nord Stream II gas pipeline linking it and Russia.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said Vladimir Putin had “flagrantly violated” agreements on the territorial integrity of Ukraine by recognizing in independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two separatist territories that are loyal to Moscow.
In his speech last night, the Russian President “hurled numerous other false accusations and aspersions” and deployed Russia troops to the region “under the guise of peacekeepers,” Johnson said.
The deployment of troops and tanks in eastern Ukraine “amounts to a renewed invasion of that country,” Johnson said. Putin was “establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive”, he added, suggesting the ultimate plan was “the destruction of a peaceful neighbour”.
Johnson, who visited Ukraine in recent weeks and met with leaders in Munich over the weekend, confirmed the limited sanctions immediately and said the UK was “prepared” to go further.
Under the UK sanctions regime, any assets the banks or people hold in the UK are due to be frozen, individuals banned from traveling to the UK, and all UK individuals and entities banned from having dealings with them.
“This is the first tranche, the first barrage, of what we are prepared to do,” said Johnson. “We will hold further sanctions at readiness, to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further.”
The Prime Minister also vowed to send more troops to the region if requested by NATO, saying: “We cannot tell what will happen in the days ahead, but we should steel ourselves for a protracted crisis.
“The United Kingdom will meet this challenge side-by-side with our allies, determined that we will not allow Putin to drag our continent back into a Hobbesian state of nature, where aggression pays and might is right.”
Johnson also told MPs it was “inconceivable” that major sporting events would take place in Russia in the current circumstances, despite having previously said he did not believe in boycotts.
In a separate statement, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that the UK will also sanction members of the Russian Duma and Federation Council who voted to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk “in flagrant violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty”.
The government will also extend existing territorial sanctions imposed on Crimea, banning UK individuals and businesses from dealing with the territory until it is returned to Ukrainian control.
Truss also stressed that an “unprecedented package of further sanctions [is] ready to go” if the Kremlin does not back down. These include a wide ranging set of measures targeting the Russian financial sector, and trade.
However UK politicians were critical of Downing Street’s muted first response.
Keir Starmer, Labor leader, said politicians “must show Putin we will not be divided”, adding that while he welcomed the sanctions announced today, more was needed.
“I understand the tactic of holding back sanctions for Putin and his cronies to try and stop an invasion of the rest of Ukraine, but a threshold has already been breached. A sovereign nation has been invaded in a war of aggression based on lies and fabrication .
“If we do not respond with a full set of sanctions now, Putin will once again take away the message that the benefits of aggression outweigh the costs.”
As well as sanctions, Starmer called for a ban on trading in Russian sovereign debt, its exclusion from financial mechanisms such as Swift and to end a “campaign of propaganda” by banning the state-run RT channel from airing in Britain.
He also called for measures to be introduced to tackle dirty money in London, both in the City and politics, as well as cracking down on spies.
“We have to admit mistakes have been made, we have to rectify them,” the Labor leader said. “This has to be a turning point.”
Chris Bryant, chairman of the Russia all-party parliamentary group and chairman of the Commons standards committee, tweeted: “Johnson’s statement on Ukraine seems remarkably thin. Just three people and some banks to be sanctioned.”
He added: “Has Abramovich been sanctioned? I thought not.”
Johnson was also urged to go further by Conservative MPs including former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who told the prime minister: “They need to feel the pain”
Crispin Blunt, another Tory MP, said Putin “has already committed the crimes that deserve the most severest punishment from the free world.”
Peter Bone, a veteran backbencher, added: “I think both sides of the House were expecting stronger sanctions to be announced today.”
The relative inaction was also criticized by figures outside of Westminster.
Bill Browder, the financier and political activist behind the Magnitsky Act, said: “Pretty tepid if you ask me. The oligarchs have been on the US sanctions list since 2018.
“Where is VTB and Sberbank? Where are the other 50 oligarchs? The ones whose names we can’t mention out of fear of libel.”