Sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs including Alisher Usmanov over Ukraine invasion

The UK has imposed sanctions on billionaire sports and mining mogul Alisher Usmanov along with former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov, as part of the international reaction to the invasion of Ukraine.

The announcement by foreign secretary Liz Truss came shortly after Usmanov’s £500m super yacht was seized by German authorities, amid claims that the UK was lagging behind its EU allies in targeting the wealthy plutocrats around Vladimir Putin.

Usmanov is known in the UK for his former stake in Arsenal football club, which he sold in 2018, and his business links with Everton, which owner Farhad Moshiri suspended this week after his assets were frozen by the EU.

Mr Shuvalov was named in parliament by Sir Keir Starmer on Wednesday as the two luxury apartments in central London worth an estimated £11m. He is a core part of Putin’s inner circle, and headed up Russia’s bid for the 2018 football World Cup.

Ms Truss said that the pair – together thought to be worth £19bn – will be subjected to a full asset freeze and travel ban.

“Our message to Putin and his allies has been clear from day one – invading Ukraine would have serious and crippling economic consequences,” she said.

“Sanctioning Usmanov and Shuvalov sends a clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime and his barbarous war. We won’t stop here. Our aim is to cripple the Russian economy and starve Putin’s war machine.”

The new sanctions come as ministers prepare to U-turn on plans to give oligarchs an 18-month “grace period” before they are forced to reveal the extent of their property holdings in the UK.

Labour are demanding a change in legislation to slash the delay to 28 days, after Starmer warned the government was giving Putin cronies time to “quietly launder their money out of the UK property market and into another safe haven”.

It is understood that ministers will come forward with a proposal to shorten the period before the government’s Economic Crime Bill goes to a Commons vote on Monday.

But Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, said the “vague promises” were not enough and ministers should accept Labour’s plan.

“The government must side with Labour to protect our security and show solidarity with the people of Ukraine by taking the action needed to send a clear, united message – Putin-backed oligarchs are not welcome in our economy,” he said.

Downing Street has come under fire over the slow pace of sanctions, with Whitehall sources complaining that post-Brexit legislation to allow the UK to impose its own regime was slowing the process down.

Provisions requiring “reasonable grounds” to be provided for each individual sanction have resulted in a labour-intensive and time-consuming process currently taking up a 100-strong team of experts.

European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans said London was trailing behind Brussels in its measures against Putin associates.

“I don’t hesitate to say this,” he said. “The UK is now following our lead. And I’m sure they will continue to follow the lead because the pressure of the public opinion in the UK is very clear about this.”

Senior Tories have piled pressure on Mr Johnson to step up the pace.

Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “We should be looking immediately to seize those assets linked to those who are profiting from Putin’s war machine, holding it in trust and returning it to the Russian people as soon as possible.”

This map shows the areas held by Russian forces in Ukraine

(Press Association Images)

And defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood warned there will be “increasing public anger that we’re not doing enough to help our fellow Ukrainians in their hour of need”.

Amid calls in parliament for the government to target Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, culture secretary Nadine Dorries said that Russian “kleptocrats” had been allowed to remain part of the English football scene for too long.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour MP Chris Bryant told her: “It’s a mystery to me why Roman Abramovich has not yet been sanctioned. The government itself knows that he’s been engaged in illicit activity and he’s a person for concern for the government, which is why they’ve not been encouraging him to come to the UK.

“I don’t know why the UK has not seized a single yacht, or a flat, or a property of any other kind while other countries in Europe are able to do that.”

Ms Dorries replied: “In football, I agree with him, we have tolerated the investment of Russian kleptocrats for far too long.”

As well as his interests in English football clubs, Uzbekistan-born Usmanov owns the £48m Beechwood House in Highgate and the 16th century Sutton Place estate in Surrey.

His USM Holdings empire, which includes interests in metals, mining and telecoms, sponsored the Everton training ground and had bought naming rights for the club’s new stadium in a deal worth £30m to the club.

Shuvalov has been chair since 2018 of VEB, one of the banks subjected to a UK asset freeze.

The naming of the pair brings the total number of oligarchs sanctioned since the invasion began a week ago to 13.

– The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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