Boris Johnson has hit Russia with what he called the “largest set of sanctions ever imposed anywhere by the UK government” – targeting individuals including President Vladimir Putin’s former son-in-law.
Downing Street confirmed a range of further oligarchs who are particularly close to the Kremlin will be sanctioned, including Russia’s youngest billionaire and former husband of Vladimir Putin’s daughter, Kirill Shamalov, the chairman and CEO of PSB bank Petr Fradkov, deputy president of VTB bank Denis Bortnikov, general director of United Aircraft Corporation Yury Slyusar and CEO of Novikombank Georgieva Elena Aleksandrovna.
The prime minister said there are also plans to introduce legislation that would limit the amount of deposits Russian nationals will be able to hold in UK bank accounts and to work with G7 and NATO allies to shut off the country’s access to the SWIFT payment system.
The measures will come into force as soon as they are laid in parliament, which for some is likely to be as soon as next week.
Whitehall officials said they expected the economic impact of the collective sanctions would be significant, potentially knocking several percentage points off Russia’s GDP over the next 12 months
PM brands Putin a ‘bloodstained aggressor’
Addressing MPs, Mr Johnson said: “Putin will stand condemned in the eyes of the world and of history. He will never be able to cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands.
“Although the UK and our allies tried every avenue for diplomacy until the final hour, I am driven to conclude that Putin was always determined to attack his neighbour, no matter what we did.
“Now we see him for what he is – a bloodstained aggressor, who believes in imperial conquest.”
The prime minister added that “this hideous and barbarous venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure”.
UK government imposes more measures against Russia
Downing Street said the UK government’s plan of action against Russia consists of 10 components:
• An intention to impose asset freeze on all major Russian banks with an immediate freeze against VTB which has assets totalling £154bn
• To introduce legislation on Tuesday that will prohibit the ability of all Russian companies to raise finance on UK markets
• To issue sanctions against individuals, entities and their subsidiaries which include Rostec – Russia’s largest defence company
• Look to imminently ban the ability of Aeroflot to land in the UK
• To immediately suspend the use of export licences to Russia – an example being electrical components or parts of military trucks
• To lay legislation “within days” that will prohibit a wide range of high tech exports to Russia
• Look at introducing legislation that would limit the amount of deposits Russian nationals will be able to hold in UK bank accounts
• To work with G7 and NATO allies to shut off Russia’s access to the SWIFT payment system
• To extend the full range of these measures to Belarus
• Look at bringing forward the Economic Crime Bill which will take action against Russians who raise funds in the UK before the Easter recess
What would SWIFT sanctions mean for Russia and the West?
Cutting Russia off from the SWIFT global payments system would be one of the toughest sanctions the West could impose.
But it would also involve pain for foreign banks and other creditors that do business with the country.
The system, which has its headquarters in Belgium, is used by more than 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories to send money and information to each other.
It is an important cog in the world’s financial system and overseen by central banks in the United States, Japan and Europe.
Ukraine’s foreign minister has called for Russia to be cut off from SWIFT and that call has been backed by other governments including the Czech Republic. There has been a clear reluctance more broadly to do so.
Russia launches military offensive with missile strikes
The prime minister said: “Overall we’ll be imposing asset freezes on more than 100 new entities and individuals, on top of the hundreds we’ve already announced.
“This includes all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine.”
He said “oligarchs in London will have nowhere to hide” and that when it comes to further measures, “nothing is off the table”.
The PM said his government will support Ukrainians “economically, diplomatically, politically, and yes militarily”, but reiterated that the success of the measures outlined depends on the “unity of our allies”.
It comes after Russia launched a military offensive overnight against its neighbour with missile strikes and explosions reported across Ukraine.
According to Western officials, Russia intends to seize and control a large section of Ukraine.
Their current assessment of Russian military movements indicates that Kyiv, Odessa, Mariupol and separatist areas in Ukraine’s Donbas region could all be targeted.
The officials added that it was unclear whether taking control of the whole of Ukraine was an immediate objective of the Kremlin.
PM vows to protect Britons from cost of living crisis
Amid concerns about rising oil prices since the invasion, the prime minister vowed to do “everything possible” to safeguard “our own people” from the repercussions of the invasion on the cost of living.
“The government will do everything possible to safeguard our own people from the repercussions for the cost of living – and, of course, we stand ready to protect our country from any threats including in cyberspace,” he told MPs.
In a televised address earlier today, the prime minister vowed to hit Russia with a “massive” package of sanctions – designed to “hobble” Moscow’s economy – after Mr Putin’s “vast invasion” of Ukraine by land, sea and air.
The PM said the Russian president had “unleashed war in our European continent” with a “hideous and barbaric venture”.
PM to host another meeting of COBRA on Ukraine
Downing Street confirmed the PM will host a COBRA meeting at 7:30pm after taking questions in the House of Commons, and then will convene with members of his cabinet at 8:30pm.
Officials also confirmed government buildings will be lit blue and yellow this evening and fly the Ukrainian flag in support of the nation.
Mr Johnson earlier held calls with Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Store and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
After giving his backing to the new measures and sanctions outlined by the PM, Sir Keir called for further aid, including humanitarian support for Ukraine.
“There are changes we must make here in the UK. For too long our country has been a safe haven for the money that Putin and his fellow bandits stole from the Russian people. It must now change,” the Labour leader said.
Meanwhile, Conservative former prime minister Theresa May said Russia needs to feel “the cold wind of isolation”.
“Vladimir Putin has initiated war in mainland Europe, the response must be unequivocal and absolutely clear,” she added.