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LONDON (Reuters) – The British government said on Thursday it had frozen more than 18 billion pounds ($20.5 billion) in assets held by the Russian oligarch and other individuals and companies who were subject to sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), affiliated with the Ministry of Finance, said in its annual report that Russia has bypassed Libya and Iran to become Britain’s most sanctioned country.
The frozen Russian assets were £6 billion more than the amount declared in all other British sanctions regimes.
Among them are Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and businessman Mikhail Fridman, along with President Vladimir Putin, his family and his military commanders.
Frozen assets are a mixture of stock in companies and cash in bank accounts. It does not include tangible assets such as real estate or yachts, or assets in Crown dependencies such as Guernsey and Jersey.
The government has imposed sanctions on 95% of Russian exports to the UK and all imports of Russian oil and gas will cease by the end of the year.
“We have imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Russia and they are disrupting their war machine,” Treasury Secretary Andrew Griffiths said in a statement.
Our message is clear: We will not allow Putin to succeed in this brutal war.
Britain has so far imposed sanctions on more than 1,200 individuals, including prominent businessmen and politicians, and more than 120 entities in Russia.
Officials said Western sanctions mean stockpiled parts are being depleted for the auto industry, as new cars such as the latest Lada are being produced without airbags or anti-lock brakes.
Russian airlines are stripping planes of spare parts and using semiconductors in kitchen appliances on Soviet-era tanks, officials said, adding that ammunition shortages have played a role in recent battlefield successes in Ukraine.
In the long run, officials said, Russia suffers from a brain drain and lack of access to critical technologies, with 75% of companies reducing their operations and 25% leaving the country entirely.
While Russian assets are currently only frozen, there are discussions about options for their confiscation. Western officials say large-scale financial assistance is needed to rebuild Ukraine and a moral argument for those responsible for the invasion to contribute.
“I think what we’d like to do is look at what all the options are, what’s possible, and then make a decision with allies on that,” one of the officials said.
Since Britain began imposing travel bans, asset freezes and other sanctions on February 24, the day Russian forces invaded Ukraine, the government has received 236 reports of sanctions violations.
Russian billionaire Peter Aven is challenging allegations of evasion of penalties against him in a London court. He is accused of using money stored in British accounts to fund his lifestyle.
The case is the first to test Britain’s approach to imposing sanctions on Russian citizens since the invasion.
Additional reporting by Andrew McCaskill and Michael Holden. Editing by Gareth Jones
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