Britain imposes sanctions on Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko and five banks

Britain imposes sanctions on Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko and five banks
  • Britain also imposed sanctions on two brothers from Rothenburg
  • Billionaires Timchenko and Rottenberg have ties to Putin
  • Russian bank among the targeted lenders, state banks spared
  • Sanctions bring the UK into line with US measures
  • British lawmakers are calling on Prime Minister Johnson to move forward

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Gennady Timchenko and other billionaires closely linked to Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader deployed military forces to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Russia is moving toward “pariah status” and that the world must now prepare for the next phase of Putin’s plan, saying the Kremlin is paving the way for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Johnson told parliament that five banks – Russia, IS Bank, GenBank, Promsvyaz Bank and Black Sea Bank – were subject to sanctions, along with three people – Timchenko, brothers Igor and Boris Rotenberg.

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The British government said Timchenko, one of the founders of the Gunvor trading company, was a major shareholder in the Bank of Russia, and is himself a stakeholder in the National Media Group that supported the destabilization of Ukraine after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“The Bank of Russia supported the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation by integrating the financial system after the annexation of Crimea,” said a statement on the government’s website with a list of sanctions.

Johnson said Timchenko is a close ally of Putin, as well as the Rothenbergs.

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But the conservative prime minister has refrained from imposing restrictions on Russia’s largest state banks, cutting capital from Russian companies or expelling so-called prominent Russian oligarchs from Britain.

“This is the first tranche, the first volley of what we’re prepared to do,” Johnson said. “It is absolutely necessary that we keep more strong sanctions…in light of what President Putin might do next,” he added.

“We want to prevent Russian companies from actually being able to raise money in sterling or in dollars,” Johnson said.

Several British lawmakers demanded that Johnson be tougher on Russian money, even demanding that the Russian oligarchy be expelled from Britain and the Russian money out of the City of London.

Hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed into London and the British overseas territories from Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and London has become the western city of choice for wealthy people from Russia and other former Soviet republics.

Putin’s circle

Although Johnson warned Putin that more sanctions would follow, Britain’s initial package of sanctions goes far beyond the United States, which in 2014 and 2018 imposed sanctions on Timchenko and Rottenberg.

“The danger is that today’s slap on the wrist will not deter anything,” said opposition Labor MP Liam Byrne. “The prime minister has to realize that punches don’t work for President Putin.”

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A Western official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Britain would also limit Russia’s access to sovereign debt markets and its ability to liquidate transactions.

The US Treasury said in 2014 that Bank of Russia shareholders include members of Putin’s inner circle. The Treasury said Boris Rothenberg made a fortune under Putin.

Johnson said Europe had failed to turn away from Russian energy and saluted German Chancellor Olaf Schulz’s decision to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Former Conservative Party leader Ian Duncan Smith told Johnson to press ahead with sanctions and said China would watch the West’s response carefully.

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Additional reporting by Andrew McCaskill, Elizabeth Piper, Movija M. Editing by Jay Faulconbridge, Michael Holden and Angus McSwan

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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