Sanctions target ‘shady network’ backing Putin, UK says

The UK has imposed sanctions on the “shady network” of family and business associates that it says supports the “luxury lifestyle” of Russian President Vladimir Putin – including several cousins, his ex-wife, his rumored partner and her grandmother.

Seven Putin family members and five financiers were targeted with travel bans and asset freezes on Friday.

These include Alina Kabaeva, a former Russian Olympic rhythmic gymnast widely reported to be the president’s current partner, who the UK says is chair of the National Media Group, reportedly Russia’s largest private media company.

Also on the list is Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, Putin’s former wife, who the UK says has “benefited from preferential business relationships with state-owned entities and exhibited significant unexplained wealth” since her 2014 divorce.

“We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle,” foreign secretary Liz Truss said. “We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails.”

Friday’s list adds to measures slapped on Russian oligarchs, companies and state institutions since Moscow attacked Ukraine on February 24.

Others targeted included Anna Zatseplina, Kabaeva’s grandmother, who the UK authorities said was associated with Gennady Timchenko, a main oligarch supporter of Putin’s government. Igor Putin, the president’s first cousin, is also now subject to a travel ban and asset freeze, as are Roman Putin and Mikhail Shemolov, first cousins ​​once removed.

Another target is Mikhail Putin, a senior executive at Sogaz Insurance, a previously sanctioned group, and Gazprom, the state-controlled energy giant, who the UK says is reportedly a relative of the Russian president.

The measures are the latest intended to prevent associates of the Russian government from traveling to the UK, accessing UK-based assets or doing business through British companies.

The British authorities on May 4 barred UK services companies such as public relations firms from doing further business with Russian companies and individuals.

There was no immediate announcement from the EU of sanctions matching those imposed by the UK. The UK and EU have previously co-ordinated internationally to maximize the effectiveness of their sanctions against Russia. But at present Brussels is trying to agree its own sixth sanctions package, despite resistance from Hungary to proposals for an oil embargo.

The Foreign Office said on Friday that the UK government had imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals and 100 entities since the invasion of Ukraine, including oligarchs worth £ 117bn.

There has been a series of claims in recent years about Putin’s personal wealth, including allegations by Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition activist, that he owns a vast palace on Russia’s Black Sea coast.

The Foreign Office said that official records listed only “modest assets” for the Russian leader, including a small flat in St. Petersburg, where Putin grew up, two Soviet 1950s cars, a trailer and a small garage.

“In reality, Putin relies on his network of family, childhood friends, and selected elite who have benefited from his rule and in turn support his lifestyle,” it said.

The group’s reward was influence over the affairs of the Russian state that went “far beyond” their formal positions, it added.

“Today’s sanctions will hit this cabal who owe Putin their wealth and power, and in turn support Putin and his war machine,” it said.

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