POLITICS

Russia Could Seize UK Business Assets If West Slaps Economic Sanctions, Senator Warns

05/03/2014 10:54 GMT | Updated 05/03/2014 11:59 GMT

Russia could seize the assets of European and American companies operating in the country in retaliation for any economic sanctions imposed by the West amid tensions over the Ukraine crisis, a top Russian senator has warned.

Andrey Klishas, chairman of the upper house committee on constitutional law, told RIA Novosti that a team of lawyers are preparing a federal bill that would enable Russian president Vladimir Putin and the government to confiscate foreign-owned property in Russia, including assets owned by private companies.

“All sanctions must be mutual,” Klishas said. “We are only suggesting that instead of threatening each other with sanctions we should together with our partners calmly read the Ukrainian Constitution and understand what has happened in this sovereign country".

“The main thing we are trying to achieve, whether our European and American partners want it or not, is to make others listen to our legal arguments and adequately react to them."

Conservative MP Brooks Newmark, a member of parliament’s influential Treasury Select Committee, suggested that the UK could hit Russian business assets and bank accounts in turn.

He told HuffPostUK: "We can economically hurt Putin and his cronies as well, we can put a huge amount of economic pressure on them. They have enormous business interests in the UK and bank accounts here, too."

The White House earlier this week called off trade talks with Russia. President Barack Obama warned earlier this week that if Russia 'continued on its current trajectory" then the US was prepared to impose "a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and its standing in the world.”

In response, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told the UN Human Rights Council: "Those who try to interpret the situation as a type of aggression and threaten sanctions and boycotts, are the same who consistently have encouraged the sides to refuse dialogue and have ultimately polarised Ukrainian society."

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said: "Moscow has explained to the Americans, repeatedly and demonstrably, why their one-sided punitive measures are not matching the standards of civilized relations between nations. If this fails to take effect, we will have to retaliate, and not necessarily in a mirror way."