According to a US briefing, Washington and its allies have developed a list of Russian elites in or near Vladimir Putin’s inner circle who would face economic penalties if the Kremlin ordered an invasion of Ukraine.
The language used by a US official in a briefing to Reuters is strikingly similar to that used by the UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, on Sunday, when she said Britain would introduce legislation allowing London to target banks, energy companies, and “oligarchs close to the Kremlin,” and that the targeting would be coordinated internationally.
“The people we’ve identified are in or near the Kremlin’s inner circles, play a role in government decision-making, or are at the very least complicit in the Kremlin’s destabilising activity,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Although no names were given, the official stated that the sanctions list will include elite people or oligarchs as well as their family members.
“We can pull from a broad list of individuals,” the official told Reuters, noting that some would come from a classified list of senior Russian political figures and oligarchs outlined in section 241 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in a report sent to the US Congress in 2018.
The list includes 114 “senior political leaders” but not Putin and 96 “oligarchs,” even though it is three years old.
“Putin’s cronies will no longer be able to escape sanctions by using their spouses or other family members as proxies.”
Sanctions would cut them off from the international financial system, and they and their family members would no longer be able to benefit from the advantages of putting their money in the west and attending premier western colleges, according to the source.
A year ago, an associate of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny issued a shorter list of eight named persons, chosen from a wider, undisclosed list of 35.
Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea FC, was among them, as was Alisher Usmanov, a metals mogul with ties to Everton FC.
It’s unclear whether Abramovich or Usmanov are listed on the US sanctions list. Both have denied any ties to Russia’s Kremlin.
The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, slammed the planned sanctions as an “outright attack on business” and warned reprisal after the UK announced new laws targeting Russian firms and persons.
During a telephone conference, Peskov said, “The words made in London are highly troubling.”
“I believe they not only cause us, our businesses, anxiety, but they also reflect a considerable degree of London’s unpredictability, which is a cause for severe concern among worldwide financial institutions and businesses.”
Peskov did not comment directly on threats against rich Russians close to Putin, but he did call the prospect of sanctions unlawful, saying it would affect Russian and British corporate interests.
“We should call a spade a spade: sanctions are legitimate, formalised by a UN Security Council decision, whereas we’re dealing with a blatant attack on business,” he stated during the conversation.
Bill Browder, an anti-corruption advocate, has called on Britain to impose economic penalties on Russian oligarchs close to Putin to prevent a military invasion of Ukraine.
The US-born financier feels that the most efficient way to grab the Russian president’s attention is to attack his and those closest to him’s wealth and that the UK should not wait to see whether a conflict breaks out.
“Five oligarchs should be sanctioned tomorrow.” This would demonstrate that there is the political will to do so.
“If they don’t drawback in 10 days, they should punish another five, and the top 50 if they invade,” Browder told the Guardian.
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On Monday afternoon, Truss is set to introduce legislation in the House of Commons that would empower Britain to target firms and wealthy people.