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Boris Johnson unveils sanctions on five Russian banks and three individuals

Boris Johnson unveils sanctions on five Russian banks and three individuals

Boris Johnson launched a first wave of UK sanctions against Russia on Tuesday after Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine, targeting five banks and three wealthy oligarchs with close links to the Kremlin.

In a statement to MPs at lunchtime on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said Britain was wielding “new and unprecedented” powers to target “Russian individuals and entities of strategic importance to the Kremlin”.

But while the Prime Minister said the announcement was just the first barrage of sanctions Russia was likely to face, some MPs said the measures were not tough enough.

Labour MP Liam Byrne accused the UK of pulling its punches while Conservative MP Peter Bone said “both sides of the House were expecting stronger sanctions to be announced today”.

Mr Johnson said the first wave of sanctions will target five Russian banks: Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and Black Sea Bank. In addition Britain said it was also launching sanctions against three “very high net worth individuals”: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg.

“Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here, and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them,” Mr Johnson said.

“This is the first tranche, the first barrage, of what we are prepared to do: we will hold further sanctions at readiness, to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further.”

On the three individuals targeted by the UK, Mr Johnson said: “These are people who are very close to the Putin regime.”

Under the sanctions Boris and Igor Rotenberg and Mr Timchenko have had their UK assets frozen and travel banned to the UK. Western officials said the move was a “clear demonstration that we want to show there is a cost borne by the Kremlin rather than simply by the people of Ukraine who are potentially in the firing line”.

The officials said that when combined with similar moves by western allies the sanctions would significantly impact “their ability to lead the international lifestyle they may like to live”.

The officials added that the five Russian banks targeted by the UK were involved in bankrolling the Russian occupation of the two breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk at the centre of the Ukraine crisis. They said the banks had already had their UK assets frozen and that UK businesses were no longer able to transact with them. Bank Rossiya was “particularly close to the Kremlin”, the officials said, while Promsvyazbank had close links to the Russian defence sector.

Britain announced it will also sanction members of the Russian Duma and Federation Council who voted to recognise the independence of the two self declared republics which were seized by Moscow backed separatists in 2014.

The UK also plans to legislate to extend the territorial sanctions already imposed on Crimea, annexed by Russia eight years ago, to the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. In a statement the Foreign Office said no UK individual or business will be able to deal with this territory until it is returned to Ukrainian control.

Britain plans to take tougher steps if Russia launches a further invasion into Ukraine which could include a set of measures targeting the Russian financial and banking sectors.

This could include introducing new legislation which will prevent Russia from issuing sovereign debt in UK markets and seek to “progressively isolate Russia from the international finance system”.

The UK will also look to sanction a much wider range of oligarchs close to the Kremlin, the officials added.

Who are the Russian oligarchs being sanctioned by Britain?

Igor and Boris Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko all have links to Russia’s energy sector and have been under sanctions in the US for years.

Boris Rotenberg, 65, and his nephew Igor, 48, are billionaire Russian businessmen and oligarchs.

The elder Rotenberg is co-owner of SMP Bank with his brother, Arkady, and president of the Sochi football club. As childhood friends of Mr Putin and the Russian president’s former judo partners, the brothers became immensely rich following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The Rotenbergs were slapped with sanctions by the US Treasury in 2014 when it was claimed that Putin had awarded them billions of dollars in contracts with Russian energy corporation Gazprom and for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Igor Rotenberg is the majority shareholder in oil drilling contractor Gazprom Drilling. A 79 per cent stake in the company was sold to him by his father Arkady in 2014 after the US imposed sanctions. Igor was hit with sanctions by the US in April 2018.

The family are believed to have bought at least one property in Belgravia, London worth more than £3million, which is owned by Igor’s brother Roman Rotenberg.

Oligarch Gennady Timchenko, 69, is a close ally of Putin and part of the president’s inner circle. Western officials said he was a major shareholder in Rossiya Bank, one of the five banks sanctioned by the UK.

He is a former engineer, St Petersburg oil trader and an alleged one-time KGB operative.

He founded investment group, Volga Group, which specializes in investments in energy, transport and infrastructure and was previously the co-owner of Gunvor Group – a trading house that exports Russian oil.

In 2014, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Timchenko. The US treasury department said: “Timchenko’s activities in the energy sector have been directly linked to Putin. Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds.”