What Are The Sanctions The UK Is Imposing On Russia And Do They Go Far Enough?

Boris Johnson is targeting banks and "high net wealth" individuals following the invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson accused Putin of being in an 'irrational frame of mind' over his aggressive stance towards Ukraine and fear of Nato.
Johnson accused Putin of being in an 'irrational frame of mind' over his aggressive stance towards Ukraine and fear of Nato.
HuffPost UK

Boris Johnson has unveiled the “first barrage” of the UK’s sanctions against Russia amid fears that president Vladimir Putin is bent on a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The prime minister announced he was slapping punitive measures on five Russian banks and three “high net wealth” individuals.

He told the Commons: “Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them.”

It comes after Putin sent troops into the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine after recognising them as independent states.

The Russian president said they were “peacekeepers”, but Johnson said it was a “renewed invasion” of sovereign Ukraine territory.

Last month UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss set the scene when she announced new legislation necessary to expand sanctions.

Here, HuffPost UK talks you through what has been announced today and asseses whether they will have any impact.

What Are The Sanctions?

Boris Johnson said Britain is going to sanction three wealthy allies of Putin and five Russian banks.

He said the “very high net wealth individuals” were Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg — whom Johnson described as “cronies” of the Russian president.

The banks facing punitive measures include Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.

The sanctions include UK asset freezes, a travel ban and prohibition on British individuals and businesses dealing with them.

Alongside this, members of Russia’s lower parliamentary chamber, the Duma, and the Federation Council who voted to recognise the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, will face sanctions.

In addition, the territorial sanctions that were imposed on Crimea in the aftermath of the 2014 war will be extended to Donetsk and Luhansk, so no trade can be undertaken with UK individuals or businesses until they are returned to Ukrainian control.

Who Are The Cronies?

Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg
Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg
HuffPost UK

Gennady Timchenko

Gennady Timchenko is a major shareholder in Bank Rossiya and also has stakes in various Russian businesses, including gas company Novatek and petrochemical producer Sibur Holding, according to Forbes magazine.

He is said to be one of the most powerful people in Russia and has close ties to Putin and has previously faced US sanctions.

Boris and Igor Rotenberg

Boris Rotenberg is the co-owner of SMP Bank and one of Putin’s childhood friends and former Judo partners.

Along with his nephew Igor, he is a longstanding associate of the president and moves in his inner circle.

Both have been subject to US sanctions since 2014, the year Russia annexed Crimea.

How Will They Hurt Russia?

The sanctions announced today are intended to hit the economy where it hurts the most by covering interests and sectors of importance to the Russian state.

The assets of the five banks have been frozen so that no UK businesses or individuals can transact with them, significantly denting their business capabilities.

Bank Rossiya has particularly close links to the Kremlin, while the Black Sea Bank is known for development and reconstruction. Promsvyazbank is described as the key bank that props up the Russian defence sector.

Turning to the oligarchs, no UK business or individual can now do business with them which is likely to harm their jet-setting, international lifestyles.

Do The Sanctions Go Far Enough?

Many MPs, including senior Tories, are sceptical that the sanctions will deter Putin, suggesting that the West needs to encourage money to leave Russia rather than just stopping a trickle of cash flowing into the country.

Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said the reprisals should go “much further, much faster”.

“What you need to do is you need to be extremely clear, extremely quickly, and make it perfectly obvious that Russian dirty money and Russian influence peddling in the United Kingdom is not OK, and that we’re going to defend the British people against the corruption that they bring,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

“So I would like to see the identification of president Putin’s wealth — I’d like to see it splashed all over every newspaper in the world.”

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt added: “Putin will have predicted and discounted western sanctions long ago, so does he agree that if we are not to be behind in the diplomatic chess game, we need to do some things that he is not expecting?”

Commons defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said “sanctions alone will not be enough” and warned that “un-targeted sanctions may play into Putin’s plan to pivot Russia ever-closer to China”.

Meanwhile, Tory MP John Barron told Johnson: “I hope he takes away from this exchange today the strong cross-party support for tougher sanctions now, because that is what is needed.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant said Johnson’s statement on Ukraine seemed “remarkably thin”, adding: “Just three people and some banks to be sanctioned.”

What Other Nations Are Doing

The most drastic action to be taken so far has been Germany’s decision to suspend the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, a multi-billion euro project long in the making.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government made the decision in response to Putin’s declaration of independence over two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine that he said marked a “serious break of international law”.

“Now it’s up to the international community to react to this one-sided, incomprehensible and unjustified action by the Russian president,” Scholz said, adding that it was necessary to “send a clear signal to Moscow that such actions won’t remain without consequences”.

So far, US sanctions only extend to an executive order to prohibit new investment, trade, and financing between US individuals and entities with the self-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

However, according to Reuters, the Biden administration is gearing up to impose further sanctions on Russia today which could include targeting the relationship between certain Russian banks and US banks.

Furthermore, the US could also place certain Russian individuals and companies on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list.

This would effectively remove them from the US banking system, ban their trade with Americans and freeze their assets in the country, the news agency reported.

The EU is also set to follow a similar path to the UK in agreeing to sanctions that would blacklist certain politicians and individuals, ban trading in Russian state bonds and target imports and exports with Donetsk and Luhansk.

What might happen next?

Boris Johnson has warned that Putin is bent on a “catastrophic” full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In his statement to MPs, he insisted that the sanctions announced so far are a “first tranche” of measures, saying more will be imposed should Russia advance further into Ukraine.

He said: “I think it is inevitable that there will be more sanctions to come because I am afraid I think it’s inevitable that Vladimir Putin is going to continue with his flagrant violation of international law.

“What we are doing today is the first barrage that we are orchestrating in concert with our friends and partners, keeping something in reserve because there must still be the possibility that we can avert an hideous outbreak of bloodshed in Ukraine.”

Other measures up the UK’s sleeve include targeting Russia’s finance and banking sector, curtailing high-tech exports to Russia and sanctioning a wider range of oligarchs close to the Kremlin, as well as banks and entities in the defence and energy sectors.


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