Britain has frozen 18 billion pounds worth of Russian assets

  • Russia has overtaken Libya and Iran as the main target of UK sanctions
  • Britain says sanctions are hurting Russia’s military
  • Russia ‘uses chips in kitchen appliances for tanks’
  • The UK government reported 236 sanctions violations

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

Russia has overtaken Libya and Iran as the UK’s most sanctioned country in its annual report by the Office for Financial Sanctions Enforcement (OFSI), which is part of the Treasury.

The Russian assets that were frozen were £6 billion more than those claimed under all other British sanctions regimes.

Among those sanctioned this year are Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and businessman Mikhail Fridman, President Vladimir Putin, his family and military commanders.

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Frozen assets are a combination of shares in companies and cash 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 sanctioned 95% of Russian exports to the UK and all imports of Russian oil and gas will be suspended by the end of 2022.

“We’ve imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia and it’s crippling their war machine,” said Andrew Griffith, a junior government minister at the Treasury.

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

The UK has so far sanctioned more than 1,200 people, including high-profile businessmen and prominent politicians, and more than 120 organizations in Russia.

COMPLICATION OF SANCTIONS

In the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Britain accounted for the majority of Russian money flowing to the West.

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

Western sanctions against Russia mean stockpiles of spare parts for the auto industry are running out, with new cars such as the new Lada model being produced without airbags or anti-lock brakes, officials said.

Russian aerospace companies are stripping planes for spare parts and using semiconductors in kitchen appliances in Soviet-era tanks, officials said, adding that a shortage of ammunition has contributed to Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes.

Officials say that in the long term, Russia will experience a brain drain and lack of access to critical technologies, with 75% of companies downsizing and 25% leaving the country entirely.

Although the Russian assets have been banned so far, the options for confiscating them are being discussed. Western officials say massive financial aid is needed to rebuild Ukraine, and those responsible for the attack have a moral case to make.

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“I think we want to look at what all the options are, what could happen, and then decide on that with the allies,” one of the officials said.

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

Russian billionaire Peter Aven has challenged allegations of sanctions evasion in a London court in the first test of Britain’s approach to sanctions. He is accused of using money held in British accounts to finance his lifestyle.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Michael Holden Editing by Gareth Jones

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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