Britain has frozen 18 billion pounds worth of Russian assets

  • Russia passes Libya and Iran as main target of UK sanctions
  • UK says sanctions are hurting Russia’s military
  • Russia ‘uses chips in kitchen utensils for tanks’
  • The UK government has reported 236 breaches of sanctions

LONDON, Nov 10 (Reuters) – The British government said on Thursday it had frozen assets worth more than 18 billion pounds ($20.5 billion) held by Russian oligarchs, individuals and other businesses authorized over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has overtaken Libya and Iran to become Britain’s most heavily sanctioned country, the Office for Financial Sanctions (OFSI), part of the finance ministry, said in its annual report.

The frozen Russian assets were 6 billion pounds more than the amount reported across all other British sanctions regimes.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and businessman Mikhail Fridman are among those who have been punished this year, along with President Vladimir Putin, his family and military chiefs.

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The frozen assets are a combination of shares in companies and cash held in bank accounts. It does not include physical assets such as real estate or assets held in Crown Dependencies such as Guernsey and Jersey.

The government has approved 95% of Russian exports to Britain and all Russian oil and gas imports will cease by the end of 2022.

“We have imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Russia and it is crippling their war machine,” said Andrew Griffith, one of the Government’s junior Treasury ministers in a statement.

“Our message is clear: we will not allow Putin to succeed in this brutal war.”

Britain has so far sanctioned more than 1,200 individuals including high-profile businessmen and prominent politicians and more than 120 entities in Russia.

PENALTIES ATTACH

Britain was the destination for much of the Russian money that flowed to the West in the decades following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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The European Union, a 27-nation bloc with an economy five times larger, said in July it had frozen 13.8 billion euros ($13.83 billion) of Russian assets over the war in Ukraine.

Western sanctions on Russia mean a depletion of stockpile parts for the automotive industry, with new cars such as the latest Lada model being produced without airbags or anti-lock brakes, officials said.

Russian aerospace companies strip planes for spare parts and use semiconductors in kitchen equipment in Soviet-era tanks, the officials said, adding that a shortage of ammunition had contributed to Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes.

In the longer term, Russia is suffering a brain drain and lack of access to critical technologies, with 75% of companies reducing operations and 25% leaving the country entirely, officials said.

Although Russian assets are currently only frozen, there are discussions on what options are available to seize them. Western officials say large-scale financial aid is needed to rebuild Ukraine and a moral case for those responsible for the invasion to contribute to this.

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“I think what we would like to do is look at all the options, what is possible, and then make a decision with allies on that,” said one official.

Since Britain began imposing travel bans and asset freezes after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the government has received 236 reports of sanctions violations.

In the first test of Britain’s method of enforcing sanctions, the Russian billionaire, Petr Aven, is challenging in a court in London allegations that he avoided penalties. He has been accused of using money parked in British accounts to finance his lifestyle.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Michael Holden Editing by Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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