News Item: UK slaps sanctions on more Russians, imposes stiff import tariffs
The UK on Tuesday added over 370 more prominent Russians and entities to its sanctions list and hiked tariffs on a swathe of imports from vodka to steel, and banned exports of luxury goods in retaliation for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The government announced a new wave of asset freezes and travel bans for 350 people and 23 Russian entities. The oligarchs sanctioned on Tuesday have a combined fortune of over 100 billion pounds (120 billion euros).
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the earlier the sanctions now extended to 51 oligarchs and their families, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “political allies and propagandists”.
“Working closely with our allies, we will keep increasing the pressure on Putin and cut off funding for the Russian war machine,” she said.
Among those added to the sanctions list were Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, who are already subject to European Union sanctions, and who this month stepped down from the LetterOne investment fund they co-founded, and Alfa Bank founder German Khan.
Former prime minister and president Dmitry Medvedev, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, and his foreign ministry counterpart Maria Zakharova were also placed on the list.
The UK has been accused of being slow to act against Russian interests compared with its near neighbours in the EU.
Oligarchs previously targeted with travel bans and asset freezes include Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, as well as Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
The UK has meanwhile severed ties with Russian banks, grounded planes and stopped ships from using its ports, and plans to phase out Russian oil imports by the year-end.
The latest sanctions came as a new law came into effect early Tuesday after a fast-track procedure through parliament since the invasion.
The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act notably creates a new Register of Overseas Entities, requiring those behind foreign companies who own UK property to reveal their identities or risk prosecution.
Ministers said it would be a valuable tool for law enforcement agencies to investigate suspicious wealth.
Reforms have also been introduced to so-called Unexplained Wealth Orders, protecting agencies from exorbitant legal costs that have previously been a brake on prosecutions.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said it will “enable us to crack down harder and faster on dirty money and those who support Putin and his regime”.
– ‘Maximum harm’ –
On tariffs, the Department for International Trade said the aim was to cause “maximum harm to Putin’s war machine while minimising the impact on UK businesses”.
“Russian vodka is one of the iconic products affected by the tariff increases, while the export ban will likely affect luxury vehicles, high-end fashion and works of art.”
The list of goods covered by the additional tariffs include steel, wood, cereals, drinks, fur and white fish — worth £900 million ($1.2 billion, 1.1 billion euros) a year.
“The export ban will come into force shortly and will make sure oligarchs and other members of the elite, who have grown rich under President Putin’s reign and support his illegal invasion, are deprived of access to luxury goods,” the DIT said.
Britain will deny Russia and its ally Belarus access to Most Favoured Nation tariffs under World Trade Organization rules.
“The UK is working with our international partners and is supporting the WTO to prevent those who fail to respect the rules-based international order from reaping its benefits,” it said.
“These tariffs build on the UK’s existing work to starve Russia’s access to international finance, sanction Putin’s cronies and exert maximum economic pressure on his regime,” Sunak said.
The UK and other Western powers have imposed tough punitive measures on Russia since Putin sent troops into the country on February 24.
But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Western sanctions did not go far enough, in a video call to northern European leaders meeting in London.
“There has to be a trade embargo with Russia,” he told them via an interpreter.