West takes aim at Russia amid criticism Britain has not done enough

Britain, the United States, and the European Union have now announced sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

22 February 2022

Britain and its western allies have retaliated to what Boris Johnson has deemed an “invasion” of Ukraine with the threat of tougher sanctions to rain down if Russian aggression continues.

The Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that three billionaire allies of Vladimir Putin and five Russian banks would face punitive measures as he warned the Kremlin appeared to be “establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive” by sending troops in the Donbas region under the guise of being “peacekeepers”.

It follows weeks of tensions on the eastern border of Ukraine, which Mr Putin claimed, in a national address, never “had a tradition of genuine statehood” following the fall of the USSR.

The West reacted with outrage at the incursion, and US president Joe Biden said he expected the Kremlin to start a war as he announced his own plans to punish Russia.

But in the Commons, MPs said the sanctions announced by Downing Street had not gone far enough, although Mr Johnson insisted this was only the “first barrage”.

Mr Johnson told the Commons that immediate sanctions were being deployed against three “very high net wealth individuals”, Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg – who he described as “cronies” of the Russian president.

The sanctions, which include UK asset freezes, a travel ban and prohibition on British individuals and businesses dealing with them, were also tabled against Russian banks Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.

In Europe, the 27 EU member states unanimously agreed to a package of measures.

In a press conference, the EU’s foreign affairs policy chief Josep Borrell said it was a “particularly dangerous moment for Europe” and that 351 members of the Russian State Duma who “voted (for) this violation of international law” would be sanctions.

Ukraine – Russian tensions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson updating MPs in the House of Commons in London on the latest situation regarding Ukraine (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

He said that in addition “27 individuals and entities who are playing a role in undermining or threatening Ukrainian territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence”.

No 10 said on Tuesday that Britain would also be sanctioning those Duma members.

In a statement from the White House, Mr Biden told reporters: “We’re implementing full blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions, VEB and their military bank.

“We’re implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russian sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing, it can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”

He also said there would be sanctions against “Russia’s elites and their family members”.

“They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well,” he said.

However, Vyacheslav Nikonov – first deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma’s committee on international affairs – told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that the UK sanctions would have “zero effect”.

“What would be the result of sanctions like they’re introduced today by Boris Johnson? Zero, it’s nothing. It’s sanctioned about three oligarchs and five… small banks. You know, this is a laughable affair, of course,” he said.

“We expected something more serious, like switching from… Swift, or cancelling the (buyers) of gas and so on.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy told MPs his party has “major concerns” and suggestions on how the Government could “go further” on sanctions against Russia.

He said that “oligarchs who are close to Putin will find it too easy to avoid the impact of the measures” and added: “We believe that we must go further now.

“Only five banks and three individuals are facing sanctions as a result of UK government’s actions today. This is not big enough punishment for the blatant breach of international law that has already been made.

“And let us not be too slow to act and fall behind our international partners.”

Conservative MP and a former United Nations commander who led peacekeeping forces in Bosnia, Bob Stewart (Beckenham), said: “Mr (Vladimir) Putin may well have won. He may well have won because we’ve not reacted hard enough.”

Former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the UK should be taking action “hard now”, explaining: “That is what a dictator like (Vladimir) Putin can understand.”

“I really do believe the Government has to take this many notches further and hit them very hard,” former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith added.

But Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said: “The UK Government’s actions are not limited to what the Prime Minister has currently announced.”

He said: “We intend to escalate these sanctions, to ratchet up these sanctions, in response to what has already happened in order to deter further aggression and in order to stimulate Putin to withdraw the troops from Ukraine.”

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