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More sanctions as Johnson vows to inflict ‘maximum economic pain’ on Putin

Billionaire Alisher Usmanov and former deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov were added to the sanctions list.

03 March 2022

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who has had ties to Arsenal and Everton football clubs, has been sanctioned to pile pressure on Vladimir Putin over his “barbarous” invasion of Ukraine.

A travel ban and full asset freeze was also imposed on former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov on Thursday evening, taking the total number of oligarchs sanctioned to 15.

Boris Johnson said: “For as long as Putin continues his barbaric attack on innocent Ukrainians we will continue to exert every power we have to inflict maximum economic pain on Putin and his war machine.”

But Roman Abramovich, who says he will sell Chelsea FC, was not among the latest tranche of sanctioned oligarchs.

Government sources conceded it could take “weeks and months” to build legally sound cases against wealthy and litigious  targets.

Under pressure to act faster, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will establish an Oligarch Taskforce of ministers and officials from departments including the Home Office, the Treasury and the National Crime Agency to co-ordinate sanctions and build cases against targets.

The move came after a Government source acknowledged the time-consuming nature of levelling sanctions at allies of the Putin regime.

“We’re working round-the-clock and going as quick as we can,” the source added, with Ms Truss understood to have tripled the size of the sanctions team in recent months.

Mr Usmanov, whose commercial ties with Everton have been suspended, has already had his assets frozen as part of measures taken by the European Union.

On Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned why Mr Shuvalov, who served under Mr Putin as his deputy prime minister, had not been sanctioned.

Mr Shuvalov owns property in Westminster and is the chair of the management board of VEB, one of the sanctioned Russian banks.

Ms Truss said: “Our message to Putin and his allies has been clear from day one – invading Ukraine would have serious and crippling economic consequences.

“Sanctioning Usmanov and Shuvalov sends a clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime and his barbarous war. We won’t stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin’s war machine.”

POLITICS Ukraine
(PA Graphics)

Both men are part of the Russian president’s inner circle, according to the Foreign Office.

The moves were co-ordinated with the US, but Washington also went after a string of other prominent Russians, including Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Mr Usmanov owns the £48 million Beechwood House in London’s Highgate and the 16th century Sutton Place estate in Surrey.

Everton had already suspended its commercial links with him and he sold his stake in Arsenal in 2018.

Mr Shuvalov was said to have headed up Russia’s bid for the 2018 football World Cup.

The latest sanctions followed calls from senior Tories for the Government to do more, including seizing assets of Putin-linked oligarchs including luxury yachts and property.

POLITICS Ukraine
(PA Graphics)

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, told the PA news agency: “We should be looking immediately to seize those assets linked to those who are profiting from Putin’s war machine, holding it in trust and returning it to the Russian people as soon as possible.”,

Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood echoed the call, warning there would be “increasing public anger that we’re not doing enough to help our fellow Ukrainians in their hour of need”.

He told PA: “There’s a race to squeeze Putin given the war crimes he’s now committing in Ukraine and London continues to be seen as ground zero as to where oligarchs’ investments sit. So we need to be impounding these assets in days, not weeks or months.

“Every day we wait offers more time for the oligarchs to move their wealth to other parts of the world. Don’t forget it’s not their wealth, this is the stolen wealth from the Russian people which is utilised to keep Putin in power.”

French authorities have said they seized a yacht linked to Igor Sechin, an ally of Mr Putin who runs oil giant Rosneft, under EU sanctions.

UK officials are understood to have been tasked with looking at legal routes for seizing the luxury British properties of oligarchs with ties to Mr Putin without paying them compensation.

“It is time to shut down the racket of illicit money in British property,” a Government source said.

Mr Abramovich, the Russian/Israeli billionaire who has owned Chelsea since 2003, announced he would sell the club, with the “net proceeds” going to a charity he would set up to “benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine”.

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich (Mike Egerton/PA)

Meanwhile, in Ukraine the port city of Kherson became the first major city to fall since the invasion began a week ago, while there was heavy fighting for control of Enerhodar, the site of Europe’s biggest nuclear plant.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said a second round of talks with Russia was unable to broker peace but he did offer hopes of “humanitarian corridors” to allow civilians to flee areas of fighting, a suggestion echoed by Mr Putin.

Russian forces continued pressing on multiple fronts, but a long column of tanks has apparently been stalled outside the capital Kyiv for days.

Mr Putin’s forces have fired more than 480 missiles in the invasion, according to a US defence official, with fears of increase civilian casualties to come if there are further assaults on urban centres.

At least 33 civilians were killed and 18 wounded in a strike on a residential area in the northern city of Chernihiv, Ukraine said.

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