Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin, who have British investments, will be hit by harsh new sanctions if Moscow invades Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the House of Commons on Monday.
Truss said Sunday she would draft legislation that would alert Moscow to a “serious economic cost” to any intrusion into Ukraine by strengthening Britain’s ability to target Russian assets in Britain.
It comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has responded to the Ukraine crisis by offering NATO an additional 900 troops for deployment in Estonia, which would double the size of the British force in the Baltic state bordering Russia.
Johnson, who is due to hold talks with the Russian president and visit Eastern Europe this week, has also offered to send fighter jets to Romania and Bulgaria and warships to the Black Sea.
Under existing UK rules, which reflect EU schemes when Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, Britain is only capable of imposing sanctions on the Russians associated with the destabilization of Ukraine.
Under Truss’s new legislation, the government would be able to sanction “any individual and company of economic or strategic importance to the Kremlin”, according to British officials.
“At the moment, the economic sanctions are quite narrowly drawn, so we could only target companies with a direct involvement in destabilizing Ukraine,” Truss told Sky News.
“What we are looking to do is expand it so that any company of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia will be able to be targeted, so there will be nowhere to hide from Putin’s oligarchs, from Russian companies involved. in supporting the Russian state. “
Asked if the new law would allow the seizure of British property owned by Russian oligarchs, Truss replied: “Nothing is off the table… What the legislation enables us to do is to hit a much wider range of targets.”
Pressured on whether the proposed new sanctions would entail economic costs for Britain, Truss said “defending freedom and democracy” was more important than “short-term economic interests”.
Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said in 2020 that the City of London provided “ideal mechanisms” for reusing illegal funding, adding that it had become a “laundry” for offshore wealth.
A 2018 report from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee entitled Moscow’s Gold concluded: “The use of London as a base for the corrupt assets of Kremlin-affiliated people is now clearly linked to a broader Russian strategy and has implications for our national security.”
The National Crime Agency has estimated that money laundering costs Britain more than £ 100 billion every year.
But last week, it emerged that the government had postponed the submission of a bill on economic crime that would stop the abuse of shell companies and expose the owners of offshore companies that own property in the UK.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for foreign affairs, said Truss needed to go further and target hidden Russian-owned British real estate assets.
“It is almost six years since the British government first supported the idea of a register revealing foreign property owners, which would help put an end to Kremlin-affiliated oligarchs laundering their dirty money in our country,” he said. she added. “Over 2,000 days later, the Conservative government has failed to establish a register.”
Lord Francis Dannatt, the former chief of staff, told Times Radio that Johnson’s domestic crisis over government parties held in lockdown had weakened his ability to deal with the Ukraine issue.
“He will travel wherever he goes in Eastern Europe this week, but everyone will know he is a man with a time bomb under him,” he said.