Dominic Raab has said he would support seizing the mansions of Russian oligarchs to house Ukrainian refugees as he talked up sanctions against Moscow.
The deputy prime minister sought to defend the UK’s sanctions package from criticism that it has been weaker and slower to roll out than the EU.
But Raab said he rejected “out of hand the idea that we have been anything other than in the vanguard on this” and said the UK would go further in punishing Moscow.
The justice secretary said he would soon announce plans to stop ultra-wealthy Putin allies from using the UK’s justice system to silence Kremlin critics, journalists and academics.
And asked on LBC whether Britain could capture property assets owned by Russian elites in punishment for Moscow’s invasion on Ukraine, Raab said: “Yeah, if we’ve got the evidence and the legal basis, then we’ll do it.”
Pressed on whether he would back using those properties to house Ukrainian refugees – as called for by Housing secretary Michael Gove — Raab replied: “Yes, absolutely.
“We are looking at everything in the round, it is a team effort across government, from the foreign and defence secretary through to Michael Gove and, of course, the prime minister is driving this very hard.”
Despite political pressure, the government is facing questions over why outgoing Chelsea football club owner and Putin ally Roman Abramovich remains unsanctioned.
It has also been criticised for only imposing sanctions on oligarchs Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov last night when the EU sanctioned Shuvalov on February 23.
Similarly, the government was also forced into a U-turn over the 18-month grace period it had initially offered to oligarchs to to declare their property assets, which had raised fears that many would shift their money out of the UK property market and into safe havens elsewhere.
But Raab said it was a “false distinction” to suggest they EU had gone harder against Moscow.
“The question is not whether it is individuals or companies – it is where the money is flowing,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“There has been a running commentary that the UK has somehow been slow – we’ve not been slow.
“We’ve been at the vanguard of taking action and, of course, what is really important is we act in concert with our allies, European, American and other Nato allies.
“For example, we have sanctioned more Russian banks than the EU, including Sberbank, which is the biggest Russian bank. We’ve made it clear and introduced measures so that three million Russian companies cannot raise loans or get listed on the UK stock market.
“These measures — and each country has slightly different sanctions regimes — are all aimed at tightening the noose, if you like, and starving off the finance that is going into Putin’s war machine.”